I've been wanting to start an open series of posts related to some of the questions we get about adoption- and this is by far one of the most popular. So, here we go!
The common question I get is something like this:
Sometimes it's more specific:
This is a big question we get all the time. And as a frequent receiver of this question, I have to tell you, it's a loaded one. If you're willing to be the asker of this question (which is totally an OK and appropriate thing to ask about), I do beg that you lay down any assumptions first.
I will answer this question from our family's perspective- realizing that for all the hundreds of adoption stories I've heard while in our adoption process, each and every one has been different. Every family's "why" is different, though some of the reasoning will be the same. So, please also understand, that while we are talking about something that many people do, there can be no one answer.
I'm actually going to answer the last part of these questions first, which is:
Something I must emphasize first is-
In saying "yes" to international adoption, we are not saying "no" to domestic adoption or foster care.
Please let me explain...
Yes, there are "plenty of children here". There is an absolute need right now for foster families in our area. The One Heart Orphan Care Alliance is doing some amazing things for foster kids and families in our area. Even if you're not ready to be a foster parent, you can still help- check out their website for more info. Reputable foster care providers in our area (Lubbock, TX) are Children's Home of Lubbock, Arrow Child and Family Ministries, Buckner International, and Texas Boys' Ranch.
When we began our adoption 4 years ago, our social worker advised us to get a few more years of parenting under our belts before we went the foster-to-adopt route (we had 1 barely 2 year old). Now, I think we could have done it and been fine. Admittedly, we were not educated on how fostering works and were just scared to look into it at that point- yes, we have had our assumptions, too. :) At this point in time, however, we have had years of watching others foster and that mixed with accurate education and information has made us much more open to the process. We know of many families who began an international adoption at the same time we did, and have since decided to forego the international adoption in order to foster, or chosen to foster in the interim.
At the point in time we decided to adopt, we lacked the information and education we needed to foster. And at this time, we feel that we are too close to finalizing this adoption to start the foster care process- but who knows? It's a definite possibility for the future.
I also want to point out that though still imperfect, the foster system in our country is structured for reunification- a.k.a. reuniting kids with their biological parents. I think this is wonderful, however it can make for a very long process for those hoping to adopt. It has been a major blessing to me to get to watch friends love on their foster kiddos fully, not knowing how long they will be in their home, or how much it will hurt when they go. These foster families are making a conscious choice to love regardless of outcome, whether it ends in reunification or adoption- and that is exactly what God calls us to do!
As far as domestic adoption is concerned- our social worker explained to us that as a young couple who was able to have biological children of our own, we wouldn't be the first choice for most American birthmothers, who tend to prefer couples who haven't been able to conceive a child. (I am sure there is someone out there that will argue this point or knows someone for whom this wasn't true. Please remember the statement above- every story is different. Every adoption is a miracle.) From what we knew at that point, our wait for a domestic infant adoption would likely be a very long one.
And, the cost for domestic adoption is in the same range as international- on average, $20,000 to $50,000. So, for us, there was no clear advantage to domestic over international.
When Shawn and I began our adoption process, we were 28 and 29 and had a barely 2 year old biological son. We had experienced some infertility issues and 2 miscarriages. We had been to China 6 times collectively, and had the privilege of working in an orphanage there. We knew before we were even married that adoption was something we both wanted to do. China was on our hearts, however, we didn't meet China's adoptive parent requirements (age and income), and so we decided to pursue an Ethiopian adoption.
However, when it came time to do our home study with our social worker (one of the first steps in the process), I was a ball of nerves. I look back now (over 4 years later) and realize I'd brought all sorts of guilt and expectation with me to those meetings. Guilt that we should be "staying in our own country" instead of "taking a child from their home". Worry that we wouldn't be up to the task of raising a child who didn't look like us and has a different genetic makeup. While mailing off paperwork one day, the postal worker said to me, "well you know there are a lot of needy children here in America..." (thanks a lot, lady I don't even know). Really, I had the same question myself- why would we go halfway across the world to take a child from the only "home" she knows? Isn't that just cruel?
Our blessed social worker also helped us work through several of the reasons we'd felt led to adopt internationally. These were the two major reasons for us:
We had a global perspective. That first trip to China really opened my eyes as to how other people live in different parts of the world. Seeing another culture first-hand created a respect for other cultures and a thankfulness for my own upbringing that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I realized that "different" doesn't equal "bad", and that my American culture was good but had it's own downfalls- just like any other world culture. This perspective has allowed both Shawn and I to consider our future adoptive daughter as "our daughter" and not necessarily "our adopted Chinese daughter". Though she may be referred to in that way as to avoid confusion, there is a difference in mindset.
We are totally excited to incorporate some Chinese culture into our family traditions, and as adoptive parents of a daughter born in China, we are required to. As a part of our lifelong commitment to adopt and care for our daughter, we will also be required to send the Chinese government yearly updates and have promised to teach her about her heritage. We consider her birth country and heritage an exciting and special part of our daughter's story.
We were (and are) rich. No, this doesn't mean we had tens of thousands of dollars sitting in a bank account, waiting to be spent on an adoption. But by the world's standards, as average-earning Americans, we made more than 99% of the rest of the world. And because we are Christians and believe that all we own is given to us by God- and that it is our job to steward it well- welcoming one more makes sense. Within 5 miles of our home, we have 2 of the best hospitals in the region, our pediatrician, and at least 5 urgent care clinics. Specialists are a phone call or doctor's referral away. Our local school district is excellent. Our city is not polluted and disease is kept under control. Our neighborhood is safe. That kind of access to resources is NOT something the rest of the world can boast about. One of the things our social worker pointed out is that the basic needs of orphans in other countries are typically needs that literally cannot be met in that country. In our future daughter's case, we know that her special need will likely be the major reason she will be eligible for international adoption. It is not that China does not have the ability to treat her needs, they do- but that treatment requires caregivers who are able to afford it, and most in China cannot.
At the time we filled out the application with our agency, we actually only had about $2,000 saved- but thanks to a very generous community, several grants and fundraising, we've been able to do it completely debt-free. God has proven Himself to us financially in many ways through this process.
Now for the sticky, messy part. The part that deals with the question behind the question-
I know that right now, our country is in the middle of a big immigration mess. "Immigration" means many things to many people right now- but to our family, it also means "adoption".
Without getting too political, I have to say that the insinuation that we would be going against "our own" country by adopting internationally is rooted in ignorance. As a family, we have been very intentional to "help those in our own backyard"- especially children and families in need- and do frequently (so can you!).
But after all, this is America- we were all immigrants to begin with. The more I think about this question, the more I realize it is rooted in ethnocentrism. If our hearts are truly for the orphan- any orphan- it wouldn’t matter where they came from. So there is my stance on immigration. People are people.
Our daughter will be a naturalized American citizen. She will be "our own" just as we natural-born citizens are.
I had a moment I will never forget when Knox was about 2 years old- right at the beginning of our adoption process. He was playing by the window in a diaper and I thought, "what if that baby waiting halfway across the world was my Knox?" Oh, how quickly I would go after him! How forcefully I would pursue a new home and life for him here with us! It didn't take my Mom heart long to totally "get it".
Friends, a child who needs a family- no matter where they are located on the planet- is a child who needs a family.
So there is my (albeit long-winded) answer. It doesn't matter how you get there, or where they came from. We LOVE adoption, and think it is GOOD. Period.
To see more adoption-related posts click here: www.lissaanglin.com/adoption