I hesitate to write this, because adoption can be so divisive. But in my heart and soul, I can’t see why it divides, and so I can’t see why I shouldn’t write my open, honest opinions, born (no pun intended) of our experiences. I’m no expert, just someone doing the best they can.
And this what I know.
All adoption is formed through loss.
I can still feel the cold chill that truth, stated for maximum effect, sent up my spine at the two-day adoption education seminar we attended on the way to adopting our daughter.
Oh I had grieved my own losses (through infertility), but in truth I hadn’t thought ENOUGH about the losses our potential child’s birth parents might feel, nor the losses the child we hoped to adopt would feel throughout her life.
I was selfish – selfishly (if not unreasonably) thinking of my own overwhelming desire to be a parent and thinking much less of the pain that would have to be a prerequisite for my dream to come true – the pain birth parents might go through, and the pain our potential adopted child might never heal from, despite all our efforts to help.
There are websites and blogs that explore that pain from aggrieved (and I don’t say this in a derogatory way – they are dealing with grief) adult adoptees who struggle to come to terms with the loss they suffered when the relationship with their birthmother (and birthfather) was severed.
Many are angry and very anti-adoption – I don’t begrudge them their anger or their strongly-held opinions. All (I can only imagine) are hurt and sad – I empathise as best I can. Some are highly judgemental and hurtful towards adoptive parents – I try to understand and forgive, but it hurts.
In Australia we have the tragedy of the Stolen Generations alongside the tragedy of forced and questionable adoption practices in the 1950’s,60’s and 70’s.
As an Australian, I am deeply and truly sorry for all the pain of these tragedies.
But as an adoptive mother, who wants her adopted children to grow up in a fair and supportive Australian society, I also have to speak up against a pervasive anti-adoption culture in government, social-welfare and academic circles that I fear will leave my kids feeling like second-class citizens.
That culture has contributed to a dramatic fall in adoptions. Last year there were 333 adoptions in Australia, an 84% drop since 1988.
In Australia, there are 39,621 children in out of home care, 18,000 children in foster care waiting for permanent care solutions and yet 70 children were adopted in 2012. This represents 1 in 249 children (according to National Adoption Awareness Week, Sourced from Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report; Adoptions 2011-2012).
That culture may have contributed to the closure of the Ethiopian Inter-country Adoption program – The Australian newspaper reported that up to 7 families, some who had been in the waiting process for 10 years, had adoptions that were already in process terminated through the former Australian government’s closure of the program last year.
Deborah-Lee Furness (Hugh Jackman’s wife, who I’ve been lucky enough to meet – but not Hugh also, such a shame) is an adoptive mother and strong advocate for adoption – she’ll be introducing a panel of experts to the National Press Club in Canberra tomorrow for an ‘Adoption Crisis Forum’, amongst a host of speaking engagements this week.
Adoption is about finding families for children, not the other way around.
Adoption should be a last resort (we were told that too at our education seminar, and I had to stop myself from physically flinching).
When nature has already stopped you in your tracks to being a parent, it is hard to be told you’ll only ever be a ‘last resort ’– our poor kids, stuck with us at the ‘bottom of the barrel’. Such statements are hardly confidence-building for new parents.
Putting aside the hurt and pride, intellectually I understand the concept of adoption, particularly inter-country adoption as being a final choice for children unable to be with their birth parents (or having been relinquished), unable to be cared for within their extended family, and for whom suitable domestic adoptive parents haven’t been found.
UNICEF research states there are 13 million orphans around the world without parents and some 120 million children with one carer who struggles to provide for them.
Inter-country adoption is governed by the Hague Convention to protect the rights of children, yet there have been (always too many) cases of corruption and child trafficking. The system isn’t perfect.
We chose to adopt our children from China (within a process that really allows little choice) with its one-child policy narrative and because we believed that the centralised government approach would ensure an ethical system, although cases since have proved that hasn’t always been so.
I can feel circumspect, and believe me I have no problems feeling guilty even for things I can’t control, but I can also celebrate the fact our children are in our lives through adoption and be forever grateful for our kid’s birthparents, even as I grieve their losses (read my Letter to our Daughter’s Birthmother).
I know that with adoption, as in life, our tears are all wet and salty.
And they are joyful tears this week for our family, formed beautifully (if not perfectly) through adoption, as we celebrate our children, the wonderful connections we’ve made to other adoptive families, and the invisible red thread that will always connect us back to China.
If you don’t mind getting a bit teary, you can watch the videos I’ve made of our adoptions, Miss Yin and Little Yang. Or read about them here, and here (excerpts from my unpublished memoir ‘The end of the red thread’).
Thanks for your support. Linking up with Jess for IBOT.