Pathetically Naïve – Purposefully Stupid… Clueless or Careless

2 12 2010

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.)

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9 responses

2 12 2010
Lori

FANTASTIC. I too am amazed by what I see as willful ignorance on the part of some adoptive families. I too was amazed at the lack of understanding about state-run orphanages (redundancy alert! hello!) and adoption agency care centers. Amazed at the idea that every child in an orphanage is an orphan and available for adoption. Yes, we are supposed to learn, even the hard stuff that makes us uncomfortable. Keep on shining the light.

2 12 2010
Shannon

Learn that “years of experience in adoption”- or “# of years in Ethiopia” does not equate to = doing upstanding best for everyone after all these years.

That there is NO Win Win situation in adoption. NONE

That even the most upstanding US agencies have zero control over what happens in ET. And you may or may not be told the truth about what happens in ET. And it may be culturally ok- what happened in ET and it may be ok culturally for them to tell you what they told you in ET. EVEN SO- you may be VERY uncomfortable and unwilling to accept it.

That you can refuse a referral and should, from the beginning be open to doing so. In fact- ask more questions other than just health ones / ask probing history fact questions upon receiving referral.

Ok- I’ll step off the soap box now.

2 12 2010
Meg B

Great post! I too read Claudia’s blog and couldn’t agree more. Your description of the woman at the park is so very scary and I agree that APs/PAPs, whether they are comfortable or not, need to be prepared advocates. We owe it to our kids. We are still waiting for our referral, and posts like this are great reminders. Thank you.

2 12 2010
rebekah

Keeps me up at night:

Referral information is at the very least far from complete, and could be entirely inaccurate. And adoptive parents likely, LIKELY, won’t know until after the first trip, the second trip, and maybe even later. If ever. Right now there is no system that allows adoptive parents to figure this out before court much less before accepting a referral. It seems as if the only organization involved that is actually on the side of adoptive parents is the US Embassy, and their role really doesn’t start until court is finished.

2 12 2010
Christine

Ah, the Claudia effect strikes again. Just when you are happily working away on sewing little blankies and pillows and getting all nesty, you get a nice slap! Lately I have been feeling rather comfortable in my decision to adopt, and although posts from smart women can make me choke on my coffee or hang my head in worry or feel like my head is in the clouds at times, I have grown accustomed to the feeling. I kind of think it will never end, the conversation about ethics, the queque ( or line), all the stuff that keeps me up at night.

4 12 2010
roadtosam

WOW. you managed to say it all eloquently in a way I’ve been thinking of/ trying to do in my head but obviously not on the blog for the past year. I may just refer everyone to your post rather than reinventing the wheel myself. thanks.

4 12 2010
claudia

Oh wow, so much good stuff in this post! I think that is all I was trying to say, really – taht I think it’s important people do’nt stay naive. Especially when there are agencies involved… one of the things that concerns me is that there are agencies who have a vested financial interest in selling the ‘save an orphan’ mentality. But since we’re in the UK and didn’t work with an agency (not by choice! There was no option) I thought maybe I should keep those thoughts to myself. Because of not really knowing what I’m talking about. Because I had vomited quite enough of my thoughts out already.

And by the way… I totally wasn’t trying to say what was and wasn’t a worthwhile adoption – I agree that is something we all need to be reeeeeally careful about. That’s why I said at the top that we had adopted healthy infants (two of them!) ourselves. And I I wasn’t writing to tell other people it was wrong to adopt infants, just that we should all be aware while we do it. I hope that’s an important difference 🙂

5 12 2010
Sunday

Wow, this is a great post. I am a Foster Care Alumni, and the natural daughter of an adoptee, so by nature I can not be anti-adoption; there are real children in the world with real needs. However, rushing in naive and uninformed will not in the long run serve anyone.

6 12 2010
fricknfracks

Inaccurate information. Since learning the truth (?), a day hasn’t passed without me fretting. We were “this” close to taking advantage of the recent airfare special so I could go on my own little fact-finding mission. It came down to bad timing for travel in February for us and that sucks. Rebekah (Give All to Love) and I talked about this and she had a fabulous idea for a bunch of moms to travel Ethiopia together – without kids. Imagine what we could accomplish together.

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