I thought about adoption for years.
I spent approximately 11 months researching adopting from Africa. I spent seven months researching Ethiopia adoption specifically. And when I sent my application to the agency of my choice I still knew NOTHING.
As I said here we chose to adopt for a variety of reasons, but if you had to boil them down and make one grand statement… we thought it was the “right” thing to do. There are kids that need families and we had a family with room for another kid.
We toyed with a variety of ideas mostly focusing on adopting from Uganda, or sibling groups or a child who was HIV positive. In the end we went with Ethiopia and requested healthy, male, young-as-possible. And this worked for our family. And I do feel comfortable with our decision, again, for a very long list of reasons. But I know that if I really wanted to “save” a child I could have done much, much, much more. Although I also feel we need to be really careful about judging what is a worthwhile adoption, but I already wrote about THAT here.
Wait, I am hijacking my own post by feeling a need to justify my adoption (it is all Claudia’s fault). But it is Claudia’s recent post and the responses to it that have me broaching this subject – again.
What I really want to post about, which hopefully is reflected in my
compelling headline, is that I am surprised how far people can get into the adoption process (up to and including having kids home for years) and still be completely relatively clueless.
Early this fall I met a woman at the park who told me she was in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. She told me the name of her agency. I was 99.9% sure it is not an agency working in Ethiopia. It is a Christian missionary group with some form of relationship with some agency. When I tried to subtly and politely (not usually my strong suit) ask her about this it was clear she was CLUELESS. Her story about why THAT “agency” was based on her belief that they were doing great Christian work. As for the agency on-the-ground in Ethiopia that would be running the legal part of her adoption, she honestly didn’t seem to care. Maybe instead of calling her Clueless I should call her Care-less, as in she couldn’t-care-less. And also, as in, she was being careless (without enough caution and care.)
I spent months trying to make sure we were going into the adoption process with our eyes and minds wide open. Still I learned things during my adoption journey that made me feel less confident about our adoption choice in many areas and on many levels.
I learned things that made me question my agency. And by question my agency, I mean literally calling them up and questioning them. If you are not willing to be confrontational you should not be considering adopting. Agencies must be questioned before and after you have signed a contract.
Since adopting I have learned more and more. And sometimes what I learn makes me feel uncomfortable and I want to stop reading blogs, the news and visiting adoption yahoo groups (I would have so much more time for
spider solitaire yoga). But I have decided that I just have to live with feeling uncomfortable. Because like it or not I am an ambassador for IA and specifically Ethiopian adoption (and so is my child). So I better know what I am talking about or I may be complacent in, ugh, some seriously disgusting stuff. This is a very reluctant role for me. I can remember saying more than once, choosing an agency was critical to me because I did NOT want to be an expert on IA. And I still don’t want to be an expert, but I can’t be an ignoramus pathetically naïve either.
All APs need to accept their role as ambassadors. If learning more makes you uncomfortable, I am sorry, get over it.
If someone asked me about adopting from Ethiopia, I would ask them about their reasons, their time-line, their risk-aversion. And I very well might suggest they take a different route. But I might also cheer them on and happily watch them board an Ethiopian Airlines jet. Regardless, I hope that I would be able to explain the adoption system – at least as it stood when I went through the process. And I know at the very least I could point them to a list of resources that would present multiple views of the complex process that is IA.
If you are an AP of an Ethiopian born child and honestly don’t understand the relationship between state-run care centers and agency-run care centers you really need to do some homework. If you believe that the famines and starvation in Ethiopia have all been a direct result of the weather, you really need to do some homework. If you believe that most kids in orphanages are orphans, you really need to do some homework. Please, feel free to use my comments section to tell me some of the stuff I need to learn about – I know the list is long. What are the “hot” topics that surprised you? keep you up at night? that you wish you could change?
The best way for us all to improve the system is to keep talking (thanks, Claudia.) And we should try to avoid name-calling, (which I think I narrowly avoided here, but only by a slight margin. Please, a little grace, I may be domesticated but I have no house manners.)