Someone asked me recently if I thought that everyone who wants children should consider adoption. I am absolutely an advocate for adoption but I found myself pausing before I answered. The problem is that sometimes when we promote adoption and highlight the happy families it can create, we gloss over the darker side. The truth is that every tearjerker story about a family being brought together starts with another story of absolute devastation. Our children are not simply gifted to us, they are taken or abandoned or orphaned first. Sometimes the love of a new family helps to heal the wounds of that loss; sometimes it isn’t enough.
When we recognize that adoption is so deeply connected to loss, it changes the conversation. It is no longer simply about adults who want to be parents and fulfill that dream through adoption. We also begin to recognize that adoption is about children who have lost everything. Studies show that even infants who are adopted at birth, grieve their first mother. Children who spend time in orphanages, foster placements or abusive homes lose their self of normalcy, the people that they depended on, and often their identity. They grow up in a world focused on survival instead of play and connection. Fortunately, in the majority of cases, those children can go on to live happy and loving lives when given the right supports but some struggle to ever really recover.
When someone is considering adoption, it should be with the knowledge that it is more complicated than parenting a typical, biological child. You should know that sometimes the wounds are deep and do not heal easily. To make things worse, sometimes the supports that you were promised for after the adoption never materialize. You should know that your child’s past is not sealed at adoption like their original birth certificate. Everything that their old life gave them or made them remains after the judge declares you a forever family. At the same time, you should know that you will grow to love this child deeper than you ever thought possible. You should know that when you get through to them you will feel as though you have just won the Olympics. You should know that there will be moments that you find yourself in awe that God is allowing you to parent this amazing person.
Although the dark side of adoption is not highlighted on commercials, I think it is critical to understand before you consider adding to your family. You must take the time to have some honest conversations about whether your family can handle adoption and, if so, what type is best for you. There are important differences between international, domestic, and foster care adoption. You should also decide what child(ren) would fit best with you. The waiting list for healthy infants is long but there are thousands of older children, sibling groups or children with a wide range of disabilities who are legally free and waiting for a family today. If your heart is open to these amazing kids, please consider opening your home too but if they are a consolation prize for the baby that you really wanted, please step back in line for the one that you will give your whole heart to.
So, should everyone consider adoption? My answer is no. I do think that everyone should consider how they can help the orphan. That could mean anything from donating duffle bags for kids being shuffled between homes to mentoring youth or providing respite care. Or, maybe you will find your niche in some of the many great programs working to reduce the need for adoption around the globe. It could also lead to a realization that the children you were destined to raise had another family first. We all have a different roles to play and I think that we should each consider where we fit best. Adoption can be beautiful but it is not simple or easy or for everyone. Is it for you? What are you considering for your family?
I know that my thoughts on this are out of line with the typical Adoption Awareness Month message. I want to hear your thoughts. Let’s continue this conversation on Facebook.