Friday, April 20, 2012

America Has Better Orphans?

First let me say that last week was amazing.  I felt so loved, supported, affirmed, and lots of other super positive adjectives!  I have had a lot of stress about when it comes to this particular adoption journey, but I've almost always been at peace with it being the right decision for our family.  I know the funds we need will come to us one way or another. As my very wise friend Ellen said to me this week, the cost of the adoption is "just chump change to God"!  Ellen is so cool like that!

However, we did have one sort of weird negative encounter related to our fundraising last week. 

A friend of ours shared our link on her Facebook page.  Then a few minutes later someone else left a comment  (I copy and pasted these from Facebook so the spelling and CAPITALIZATION are not mine :))
nice BUT why cant ppl adopt in AMERICA there r children here that need a home TOO i will never support anywhere else till our own all have a home PPL NEED TO HELP OUR CHILDREN PLEASE!!!!!
 Then later in the evening they posted this:
because every Sunday news has a Sundays child its sad that noone wants them then u hear of ppl going overseas Where r the ppl for our own children that would love to have a home too IT SAD that a child in AMERICA cant find a home
And then a few minutes later:
 by the way Why didnt they adopt here
Wow.  I know that there are people out there that think this way, but generally they don't say it quite so publicly.  Well, maybe its for the best.  Maybe I need to explain.  So for all of you out there who are wondering why we didn't adopt an American child here goes!
  • We adopted Grace because we wanted a family.  Period.  We were not saving an orphan, we were not controlling the population, we were not trying to make the world a better place.  We just wanted a family.
  • We wanted a girl under 1 year old and China was an almost sure fire way to make that happen.
  • We did not want a child who had a risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, drug exposure, sexual abuse, or other things that make being a parent any harder than it already is.  We had never been parents and we simply didn't feel equipped to deal with those sorts of things.
  • We did not want to be foster parents before we were allowed to be parents.  We did not want to risk having someone come and take our child away from us before the adoption was officially final.  In China this could not happen.
(side note: Some good friends of ours adopted from the foster care system.  They got their baby when she was less than a week old.  It took over 18 months for the adoption to be finalized.  After about 9 months a relative of the baby decided that they wanted to adopt her instead of letting her stay with our friends.  For the next 9 months they didn't know from one day to the next whether they would get to keep their daughter!!!  Ultimately, the other relative changed his mind, and our friends did get to keep their daughter, but I simply am not wired in a way that would allow me to take that kind of risk.)

So then came Haven.   We thought Haven would be another baby girl from China.  But things in Chinese adoption had changed significantly from when we had started Grace's adoption in 2005.  We started to look at other countries and our next stop was...America!  We started our research with the US Foster Care system, but what we discovered is there were not American kids who needed to be adopted by Carrie and Brian.  As I said before, we were not involved in adoption to save orphans, we wanted to grow our family.  We wanted another baby, younger than Grace to maintain birth order.  And we didn't want to risk facing a situation like the friends I mentioned above had to endure.  We know lots of people who are foster parents or who have done the foster/adopt route.  They are extraordinary people, saints in my opinion. But I am not a saint.  I just wanted to be a parent.

In 2011 there were about 400,000 kids in foster care, but only about one quarter of those kids are considered adoptable.  Out of the 100,000 or so adoptable kids most of those are not infants one year old or less.  Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with adopting an older child, it just didn't happen to be the path my husband and I wanted to take.   Adopting from foster care definitely provides some advantages over international adoption; it is basically free, it doesn't require overseas travel, and a foster child is provided with many of medical and educational opportunites.  However, very quickly we saw that the baby we were hoping for was not going to be found in the United States.

Our research took us all over the planet before we landed in DRCongo.  In Congo we found:
  • a place with over 5 million orphans
  • a place where woman were being systematically raped as a weapon of war
  • a place where the infant and maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world
  • a place where about 16% of all children suffer from malnutrition
  • a place where children are dying every day from malaria, tuberculosis, aids, and many other preventable conditions
This is where we found Haven. 

His story is tragic and fairly common.  His parents were both dead, he was about to be from malaria made much worse by malnutrition.  Then a phone call came that brought us all together.  Changed our paths forever.  Changed my heart forever.  I think before Brian even came home from Congo on that first trip that we both knew we would have more children from Congo.  Then came Manny and JoJo.  And I think from the moment I stepped foot into the orphanage that our boys lived in that I would be back someday to bring home a sister for Grace...or two.

It sucks to be an orphan.  In America or China or Congo.  But American orphans don't die everyday of malaria.  American orphans get to see a doctor any time they're sick.  They get to eat 3 meals a day.  They get to go to school.  That's what makes the US Foster Care system so good.  Not perfect, but so much better than what most of the world is able to provide.  American orphans get a chance.

Didn't Grace and Haven and Manny and JoJo deserve that same chance?  Do American babies deserve to live, but African babies deserve to die.  Are American orphans really better?

In my humble opinion, ALL children deserve a chance to live.  ALL children deserve to have a family.  And family isn't about nationality, it's about love.

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