Things that I’ve learned #5
Out of respect for my kids privacy and their right to tell their story the way they want to when they want to, what I’m going to say today contains no details of their own private histories.
We adopted our two youngest children 11 1/2 years ago from Haiti. They are both teenagers now.
In the process of the adoption and the last 11 1/2 years, I’ve learned a number of things about adoption. Some of these are going to be harder to read than others.
There are too many children available for adoption. There will always be some situations where there simply is no option to provide a loving and caring family for a child than adoption. But there are too many children “in the system” who shouldn’t be there. Why is that?
- The “poverty orphan” – that’s a term created to designated children who are abandoned by their birth family because their birth family is not currently able to provide for them. Sometimes it’s a long term issue – mom died and dad has to work in the fields all day and can’t watch a baby while doing that. More often than not, it’s because of a shorter term economic “speed bump.” Temporary issues – housing, job loss, etc. can put a marginalized family in to a situation where they can no longer care for their children.
- Money – Where do you think adoption agencies and orphanages get most of their operating funds? Enough said.
Success Story – not so fast. I was once told that every child that an orphanage sent home with their new family was what they considered a success story. I believe that to be a mistaken assumption for a couple of reasons:
- It assumes a happily ever after “rainbows and unicorns” story when the child gets home. This is not aligned with the reality of the losses that an adopted child faces and sets both the child and the parents up for feeling like failures.
- It ignores the past that brought the child(ren) to this place. The loss of parents, the loss of a home, of siblings – I’ll have more about it later but no matter the story and no matter the age, the child(ren) have significant losses in their past.
Adoption Training is a failure – A recurring theme that I’ve seen and heard from an overwhelming multitude of the parents that I know and interact with can be described in this sentence, “The adoption agency never prepared me for this! If I had known more, it would have helped.”
- I firmly believe that too many adoption agencies and adoption workers soft sell the challenges of adoption and parenting adopted children. They do that for two reasons; 1) They are afraid that if they tell the truth, they will scare away prospective parents and scaring away parents doesn’t help the children who need families. 2) Scaring away parents reduces the bottom line financially for the adoption agency. Yes it comes back to money.
- I believe that most adoptive parents would still have adopted had they known more of what to expect. Some of them might have “tightened” the requirements that they would accept and there would be some who say, “Nope, that’s not for me.
- If it’s not for them, then the last thing that we should do is have a parent who is not fit for being an adoptive parent being exactly that. You end up with a high needs child in a family that isn’t prepared and not capable. A recipe for disaster.
- Not giving adoptive parents a true and honest idea of what to expect is like sending a fire truck to a fire with only their axes and their fireproof suits. They can’t do what they need to do because they don’t have the tools to prepare for and deal with the issues.
An open invitation about adoption training – if you work for an adoption agency or you know someone who works for an agency, I would love to make myself available to help them work on and adjust their training so that their families are as prepared as possible when they get their children. Feel free to pass on my information to them.
Too many churches have their adoption ministry set up wrong. There are many many churches in America who advocate for orphans along this line, “If every church in the United States adopted one or two orphans, there would be no crisis.” There’s a couple of problems with that, as I see it:
- A ministry from a church that is run based on a guilt trip is never going to be run the way that God wants it to. Instead of advocating that everyone should adopt – and push away those who might want to help but can’t or won’t adopt, a church should instead encourage everyone to do something. Provide opportunities for everyone to help – in various parts of the process – so that everyone can play a part, even if they don’t adopt or won’t adopt.
- The theology of adoption – many people have written entire books on this subject, and I can’t do that – so I’m going to be brief. Many churches, pastors and denominations draw a parallel between the way adoptive parents adopt a child and the way God adopts us as his children. It is true to that extent but it falls short in a couple of aspects:
- Being adopted as sons and daughters of God grants us eternal life and an eventual happiness and joy that comes from life with God in Heaven. If you notice, I said, eventual. Adoption quite often equals the pain and suffering of this fallen world, but there are no guarantees of happiness at the “end” of the road.
- The theology of adoption strong implies, as the Apostle Paul says, “the old life has fallen away” and the new life is now here. “ (my paraphrase). That says to me that the past is gone and it’s all looking forward and while not totally pain free, the suffering and baggage of the past is gone. That’s not true for adoptions – some are able to come through the trauma of adoption and “shut the door” on the old life but most adopted children bear scars from their old life.
If you are thinking, wow, this guy is very anti-adoption. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am very pro-adoption. But I’m pro-adoption if the adoption is done well, openly, with the proper training and understanding.
And the current system falls far short of that goal.