I have been delving more and more into the world of adoption blogs. I found Rage Against the Minivan and then I was off...discovering more and more, especially about transracial adoption.
When I first dipped my toe into the waters of adoption, I was mostly exposed by looking at Reece's Rainbow. It's a great site and a needed one - it specializes in highlighting special needs orphans from around the world who need homes, and allowing others to contribute to adoption costs. What a great idea! But I quickly realized that the language used to describe adoption in some of these circles bothered me. "Orphans no more" is one of their taglines. They talk about "children at home with their families." But, after reading several sites from adoptive children, I wondered if they would appreciate this - being told they weren't an orphan anymore when their birth parents are still not in their lives, that they are at 'home' when removed from their home countries. Adoption can be a wonderful thing, a redemptive thing - but I found that the more I was asking question in certain circles, the more people kept claiming adoption was all rainbows and happiness - 'hard but worth it.'*
I'm not sure I agree with that at this point. I think the way we talk about adoption should be more nuanced, more respectful of the very huge life-altering decision that it is for everyone involved. Some things I have come to recognize about adoption include:
1) Adoption always comes from loss. Adoption is never the ideal, and that should be obvious! The ideal would a husband and wife have a child biologically. Statistically, is the best situation for a child. If a child is being placed for adoption, then something went very very wrong. There was death, drug addiction, abuse, neglect. Something broke down and that child's biological parents could not parent that child. That is a tragedy. We are not downplaying the 'realness' or importance of adoptive families by acknowledging that adoption always beings with loss.
2) We must resist the desire to see adopters as 'saviors.' I think my biggest issue with the language used in RR communities is that there is a push for someone to "go and save" the children. Save them from an institution, from an orphanage, from their politically unstable home country. I get that - no one wants these kids to be in a bad situation, and many of them are. But adoption also takes a child from what they know - even if it's not safe - and closes the door on ever reuniting with their biological parents. That is still sad. The fact is, only Jesus Christ saves us and what he saves us from is ourselves. We should seek to be conduits of God's grace, but in no way does that mean white-washing the pain of separation from a home culture or over-inflating our role as parents into saviors.
3) Adoptive children might see everything very differently. As adoptive children grow up, many of them see their experience differently than the wider world. They may be angry that they were separated from their culture or their identity; they may long to find their birth parents or extended family; they may still feel apart from their adoptive family, despite years of love and care. The fact is, most of the adoption narrative that we read are from one perspective - the parents - and neglect to acknowledge that the adoptees experience may be very different.
4) There is an innate desire to know where we come from. I think a lot of people approach the concept of family by saying "love makes a family." They want to call the adoptive parents the 'real' parents and say that DNA does not equal parenthood. I think that comes from a good place; a place of wanting to make what we choose rather than what we're dealt our reality. But children want to know where they come from - they love to know that they were made in love, that they have Daddy's eyes or Mommy's hair, that they look like Grandma, etc. It gives a person context for their life. We can't minimize that, no matter how much we try or how much it seems politically incorrect.
5) Adoption is a paradox. I think the last point brings us to the paradox of adoption - we want these children to grow up in a family, not an institution, with people who permanently belong to them - and yet, even the process of adopting someone can still cause pain and loss. Adoption, from my point of view as a Catholic Christian, is our attempt at healing our brother and sister's pain - at being a father to the fatherless. But just as we are adopted children of God, and still long for our Heavenly home, so too being adopted children will not solve all the pain of initial abandonment.
These are aspects of adoption I don't think I had ever considered until I really began to pray and consider adoption from a very personal standpoint. As I begin to think of adoption not as a monolithic experience, but what it would be for us - for our family, made up of people who are sinners and have unearthed prejudices and selfishness - and for the children we are matched with, children whose stories are as different as they are similar, who present unique challenges, who have bottomless needs just as we all do - I realize it's not so simple. Adoption is as simple as wanting to love more, and yet so much more complex that statement looks insulting. It's not just, I want a child, my biology isn't cooperating, and look, here's one of the type we want. It's not as simple as, there are children who need homes and I can open mine.
I will figure out why God has placed this desire on my heart, but I'm grateful I'm not jumping in blind. I'm grateful that I have doubts, concerns, a need to push more and ask the hard questions. Because as much as I don't want to do anything bad, I want to do more - I want to do good. And I'm still asking, for our family and a given child, is adoption a good thing?
*I am grateful to the Reece's Rainbow community for all the work they do on behalf of children who are not with their birth families and are often neglected in bad conditions. They are a grant foundation that supports adoptive parents; they are not an orphanage or an adoption agency. They have answered so many questions that I have, and have been nothing but wonderful. In writing this, I only question the line that adoption is always a good thing - because I am concerned that this neglects issues like focusing efforts on family reunification, poverty being a reason to abandon children, etc. I know that these issues are beyond the scope of RR - I'm just opening up a wider conversation on adoption as I consider it for our family.