Giving up on the dream of Adoption

As mentioned on this blog before, I first heard of and became enamored with adoption via Steven Curtis Chapman. I dreamed of one day adopting a daughter or two from China. Adoption became a great passion of mine, I even made hubby attend an adoption info session while we were engaged! I wanted him to be open to the idea of adoption. At that time in my life, my desire to adopt a child was much stronger than any desire to have a bio child. May sound strange, but it’s the truth.

Fast forward to 2011, we had been married for 4 years, and I began to research adoption. This can quickly become and addiction if you already are prone to be an internet research addict. There is SO much out there on adoption, I feel like I have read it all (although I likely have only scratched the surface). I’ve read about international adoption, foster care and private domestic. Then various articles and personal stories on older child adoption, living with a child with RAD, Guatemalan baby trafficking, attachment, toddler adoption, sibling adoption, adoption = trauma, openness, the damage done by closed adoptions, perspectives from adoptees (esp. in light of trans-racial adoption), and many sad stories of adoption disruption and of parents who regret adopting their child. Phew. There’s just so much to read related to adoption.

The research that I’ve done has challenged and changed some of my previous assumptions about adoption. In bold is what I used to believe:

1) There are more children available for adoption than people willing to adopt. This is SO not the case. For example, in domestic infant adoption, for every baby that is placed for adoption there are at least 8 couples waiting and willing to adopt. In International and Foster Care adoption, there are more applicants than “healthy” children available under 3 years of age . The situations where there are more children than prospective parents are: special needs adoption, sibling adoption, and older child adoption (6 years old and up).

2) There are 147 million orphans in the world that need to be adopted. This number is misleading for so many reasons. First, many of the orphans listed here live in countries where international adoption is not an option. Also, the majority of the 147 million are “social” orphans. This means that they were relinquished due to poverty and they have a mother and/or a father who is alive. With the proper help and supports, many (if not most) of these children would have a chance of being reunited with their family.

3) If you want to adopt, it will happen. Similar to someone who dreams of a bio child, sometimes our dreams do not come to fruition. I read a story of a couple who attempted to adopt for 12 years before giving up their dream of raising a child through adoption. In those 12 years, they were never picked by a birth mother. This is the case for many who attempt to adopt a newborn. Internationally, the doors to various countries are coming to a close slowly but surely. Russia – closed. China “healthy’ newborn – closed (unless you are Chinese). South Korea – in the process of closing.  Recently, in Ontario, there have been some changes made to the foster care system and its nearly impossible to adopt without being a foster family first (realizing that the child may never become available for adoption). In the foster-care system here, there are very few adoptions by non-family members .  A desire to adopt does not always equal the reality that one will adopt.

Where does this leave me re: my desire to adopt? Over the past 2 years, anytime I have looked into adoption the doors to adopt have slammed shut. I almost have to laugh at how many adoption related avenues I’ve looked into that came back with a resounding “NO!”. Mostly this is related to countries closing or changing their policies or not accepting applicants for a year or two. Sometimes doors close because hubby and I aren’t on the same page at the same time.  Or, I get freaked out re: RAD and put the thought of adoption out of my mind for a chunk of time. Then, when feeling more brave, I’ll go back and look into adoption again and even more doors have completely closed.

For a number of reasons, the stars have not yet aligned for us re: adoption. Believe me, you need a) open doors b) lots of sheer willpower and c) star alignment to ever get to adopt! I’m coming to the realization that adoption may never be part of our story.  It is sad to accept that something I pictured for my life (adoption) may never happen. Maybe we will adopt one day, but maybe we won’t. The latter is looking more likely.

For now, I’ll continue to live vicariously through other people’s adoption experiences. You bet I’ll keep reading about adoption ethics and alternative strategies for orphan care. And I’ll try to wrap my mind around the fact that sometimes what you previously pictured for your life does not end up being your reality. I’ll keep in mind that this may not be better or worse, just different.

Book Review: Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

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In Instant Mom, Nia (writer and actress for the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding) shares about her fertility struggles and her experience of building her family through adoption. This book could appeal to a variety of people – those experiencing infertility, those considering adoption, those who have already adopted, etc.

While I really liked Instant Mom, one problem that I had with it is that Nia seems to promote foster care adoption with a “just do it” attitude. She doesn’t point out that her adoption experience from foster care is a unique one (her child was given up for adoption rather than removed from the parents due to abuse or neglect). The problem with the “just adopt” message is that adoptive parents may be ill prepared for the challenges that come with adoption.

While this book has a strong focus on children/adoption, I believe that most would enjoy learning a bit more about who Nia is and her life. A person who doesn’t take themselves too seriously is refreshing to be around (that’s Nia). And her “I will not give up!” power is very impressive and inspiring. Also, who doesn’t enjoy a story about a Canadian girl who defines all odds and makes it big in Hollywood? There’s interesting Hollywood and Greek stories sprinkled through out. Despite the writing style, I really enjoyed Instant Mom. It was an interesting, informative, and entertaining (sometimes very funny!) read.

What country has children the most in need of being adopted?

If you are considering adoption, and/or have a heart for orphans, you may have wondered which country has the most orphans. Also, you may have wondered which country has the greatest need for adoptive parents. Since international adoption is always changing, and what’s true for Canada may not be true for you, here’s some guidelines when narrowing down where in the world children are most in need of being adopted:

1. As you begin your search, you are bound to find that certain countries are closed to adoption at this time. Even though there may be thousands of orphans there, adoption is not an open. Strike these countries from your list.

2. As you search farther, take notice of the countries that have programs that are currently full and have a “call back” list. This means that the country/program is so full with prospective parents that the agency can’t even entertain an application from you for a while! This can happen at times when there are more people seeking to adopt then there are children available.  By default, strike these countries/programs from your list as well.

3. Look into wait times from when the dossier is received to when one could expect a proposal. Generally speaking, those with waits that are 5+ years tend to be slow because there are way more prospective parents than there are children available. Another strike. (You should now be left with only a handful of countries/adoption programs that a) the country is open to international adoptions and b) have open spots for you to apply now and c) have a proposed wait list of less than 5 years).

4. As you communicate with the handful of various countries’ adoption programs, you may find that one theme remains when you ask, “what children are the most in need of being adopted?” You are likely to hear over and over again: boys, sibling groups, children over 5 year of age, and children with special needs. 

5. While the first four points was looking at international adoption, don’t forget to contact your local Children’s Welfare office to inquire about adoption from Foster Care as well. There are children in need of being adopted whose parents have had their rights terminated and these children wait…and wait… and wait for a permanent family.

Edited: What country has children with the greatest need of being adopted? The short answer is… its complicated. See Kristen’s comment below for more consideration re: international adoption:

7 ways International Adoption has changed (2005-2013)

I remember first learning of international adoption as a college student at my Resident Director’s apartment. One day, we decided to watch a Steven Curtis Chapman concert dvd. At one point during the concert, Steven spoke about his biological daughter’s desire for their family to adopt a child. Over time, the family decided to adopt a daughter from China. Here’s a photo of Steven and their first daughter from China:

ImageI remember being completely captivated by the idea of adoption. With such great need for homes for children (in this case girls in China), why not adopt?

Well, since my first exposure to adoption in spring of 2005, I have learned a lot about adoption. I’m a research addict so when some people I knew started adopting, I began to research adoption and international adoption in particular. Here is what I have learned:

1. There is no longer a need to adopt “healthy” baby girls in China. Hard to believe, but the program has slowed to a halt.  In Canada, it is not possible to even work with an agency to adopt a “healthy” girl from China as the wait list reached 10 years! It IS still possible to adopt from China through the Waiting Child Program (children with special needs), although this program is often too full to accept new perspective parents in Canada.

2. To adopt internationally, be prepared for a looong wait. For example, an Ontario adoption agency lists the wait for a child under 32 months from Ethiopia to be 4-5 years.  2 years + is the expected wait in any country from when the application is received in country (it can take several months to a year to reach this point) to when a child is proposed to the family. Expect to wait, and wait, and wait…

3. Very few adoption agencies (at least in Canada) allow the perspective parents to request to adopt a girl. This is due to there being waaay more boys available for adoption than girls in most countries. If adding a girl to your family is what you are after, international adoption is often not the best way.

4. Adopting a young “healthy” child, especially a girl, does not give a person any bragging rights for their “deed” in helping orphans. I won’t get into the “rescue” movement re: adoption in this post, but here me out. The reason why adopting a “healthy” child under 3 isn’t really “saving” an orphan by any stretch is that there are waaay more prospective parents wanting to adopt a “healthy” child (often a girl) under 3 years old than there are children available. Does this make it wrong for a person to adopt a young healthy child internationally? No.  Just realize that numerous people proclaim that their #1 reason for adopting is to care for orphans and then they choose to adopt a young “healthy” child. The reality is that if they did not adopt the child, someone else would have. And this is especially true when one is adopting a “healthy” girl under 3 years old.

5. Be prepared to travel, in most cases, at least 2 times to the country before the adoption is complete. I have heard that its extremely difficult to meet your child and then have to leave them in their country for several months before being able to bring them home. Some countries, like Russia, require for the adoptive parents to make 3 trips. As you can imagine, one must factor in travel to the over-all adoption cost.

6. Don’t adopt internationally because you want a “closed” adoption. It’s true that a lot more foster care and domestic infant adoptions are “open” adoptions these days. It is also true that in this day of internet and travel that a child adopted internationally has the resources to be able to find their biological parent(s) too. International adoptions do not automatically mean closed adoptions, especially today.

7. There have been quite a few of Korean adoptees who have publicly shared their opinions of growing up with white parents and in a white culture.  Many grew up feeling like outsiders in their home, school, and town, as well as feeling out of place with other Korean’s who weren’t adopted. Race/culture/language are being considered and talked about more now than ever before as it pertains to adoption.  In 2013, there are several countries that will only adopt to perspective parents who share their child’s heritage.

With all that said, who are the international children in need of adoption in 2013? Now more than ever, these are children with special needs, children over 5 years of age, and sibling groups. And way more boys than girls. These are the children that wait the longest to be adopted, these are the children who are at risk of never being adopted.

A lot has changed in the international realm since I was first made aware of the need for adoption of healthy baby girls in China (no longer a need!) back in 2005. The reality is that international adoption is always changing. What’s known today (August 27, 2013) may change tomorrow. The doors to international adoption seem to be slowly closing a little more each year. While I won’t be adopting a daughter from China (something I thought I might do back when), I still carry with me a soft spot in my heart for adoption and international adoption in particular.  Complicated – you bet ya! Yet intriguing and goose bump providing when it happens and it’s truly needed and in the child’s best interest.