It has been a while since I've written much about adoption here. I have had a season of being disengaged from the adoption scene while having my head down parenting the children I currently have. Also, being in Australia, where adoption (especially international adoption) is so rare, there is very little to engage with in my local setting.
Before adopting I was such an adoption advocate. I did hundreds of hours of volunteer work and internships at Bethany Christian Services. I read every book on their resource shelf, as well as everything I could get at the library, and buy on-line. I even wrote my senior thesis on transracial adoption. I was on discussion forums, and eventually I started this blog.
After adopting our son I changed my tune. Living with the daily awareness of the tandem reality of my son's mother's loss that resulted in my gain was so painful, and I felt such guilt for benefiting from her troubled circumstances. I saw in her loss, and I am witness in my son's life, how real the ongoing losses in adoption are.
As the pro-adoption message began to take root in the evangelical church, I found myself using my voice to speak on behalf of first parents, as best I knew how. I became an advocate for reform. I questioned everything. Then, we moved to Australia, and I became increasingly distanced from adoption culture (mostly centralized around American trends and practices, which outnumber all other nations).
This week I have read a number of things that have had me thinking. First there was Tara Livesay's piece Primum non nocere - First, do no harm. Without claiming to have the answers, she so bravely spoke out on behalf of women and families whose children are being adopted to families overseas. The thing about her piece that so resonated with me is how we, as prospective adoptive parents, can be so willing to come alongside and help a woman/family/nation in crisis if the end result is us getting a child, but if we have nothing to gain in the outcome, our dedication can become non-existant. I'll just leave that right there because it is challenging me in a very personal way and I need to chew on it for awhile.
Next was Kathryn Joyce's Mother Jones piece Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement's Adoption Obsession. Her story centers around Sam and Serene Allison, Nancy Campbell, and the Above Rubies magazine. The Campbells are personal family friends, my mother has written for Above Rubies, Nancy was at my wedding shower, I was at the welcome home luncheon our church organized for Sam and Serene's newly adopted children, and some of the Campbell girls continue to be friends of mine, so this story is very near to my heart.
Back in 2005 we had adopted Small Sun, and the Campbells were really starting to advocate Christians adopting orphans from war-torn Liberia. I was extremely concerned about a number of factors that I discussed with my mother, in hopes she might have opportunity to address them with Nancy. I felt that the types of adoptions many families were pursuing - large siblings groups, disrupting the birth order, older unrelated children, and severely traumatized children being added to already large families with little to no adoption training or resource or support was a recipe for disaster. I found myself, the die-hard adoption advocate, waving red flags right and left. I didn't want to squash their heart's response to help orphaned children, but I felt that there was not due consideration given to the actual reality of what adopting these children would mean.
Luke 14:28 says "For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" I've always felt that principle holds true for a family embarking on an adoption journey. Of course we can never fully know what life holds, but I think when we are talking about taking responsibility for a child's life, for the rest of ours, we need to do due diligence to count the cost. Research. Pray. Seek council. As best as we are able, we need to understand what we are undertaking and access whether or not we have the resource to do it well.
My other concern was purely an ethical one. How transparent was the process of adoption in a country in distress?
I don't find the Mother Jones article to be offensive. To be honest, I don't know the true details of what happened in the Allison home. I do believe that from every level - personal, agency, and governing body, it should have been glaringly obvious that there was not enough training, resource, and support system to help those placements thrive. In my opinion, there were failures at every level.
We need the scrutiny of agencies to help us identify weak spots in our parenting resources. We need governing bodies to hold fast to what they deem is best for their nation's children.
Jonathan Merritt pushed back against the Mother Jones piece with his opinion - Mother Jones’ shameful attack on the Christian adoption movement. I have to say, I found things to agree with here as well. Adopting a child from an institution is a very sacrificial thing to do. Of course the individual or family that does so benefits from having a child in their life. At the same time, parenting a child that has experienced neglect, trauma, or abuse, is a demanding task (I speak from my experience as a foster parent, as parenting my domestically adopted son was not characterized by the same effort as my foster parenting has been). Adoptive parenting is hard. Do people do it just because it's trendy in their church? I find that hard to believe.
I don't have any answers. There is alot to think about, and maybe I'll get back to talking adoption around here a bit more in the future. We'll see.