Just like all conceptions don’t result in a perfect pregnancy (or in what the world considers a perfect birth or child) the same is true for adoption. There are people/groups who would never tell others to stop getting pregnant or having babies because pregnancy can be hard, unpredictable, expensive, face complications or have unexpected endings yet those same people/groups will tell others not to get involved in adoption because of those exact reasons. We would never stop telling the world to stop having babies because there are risks and instead we provide tools to educate and prepare people for the “Joy of Pregnancy”, however, too often that same education isn’t out there for those preparing for adoption.
I wasn’t prepared and I have so many… and I mean a book worth…. of thoughts, ideas and information that I’ve learned from others or learned through experience (and mostly the hard way) that I want to share. These are just some of the most important things I learned that had I known before probably could have spared me, my kids and many others a lot of turmoil. I’m going to try be brief here but will be expanding on and providing resources on these in the coming weeks. I would love to hear from you too as I continue to write on what I know about adoption so that I can share with others and hopefully help make a positive impact on the world of adoption.
1) I didn't know that some people involved in adoptions are not in it for the right reasons.
Wait, WHAT?! Really? Why else would someone do this type of work unless they really cared about the kids? I was so naive. I believed everyone was working in orphanages and with adopting families because they wanted to help. Sadly I’ve seen so many situations where agencies and orphanages are not set up as ministries (though they try to appear to be) but businesses that are often driven by financial gain. (*Making money isn't necessarily bad as long as that is not what motivates the decisions.) This is where it's really, really important to look for stability and facts when trying to find someone to work with. Know your state or country's laws as they pertain to you and who you are allowed to work with and then do your homework. Those who legitimately have the experience you need when it comes to adoptions will have feedback somewhere online or in adoption groups. Most importantly, reach out to those who have completed adoptions with whoever you are considering working with. You will learn more truth from those who have no fear of losing their adoption than those in the midst who fear retribution for any complaints they may make even privately. Consistent character feedback and good business practices will help you see who is making child based decisions vs financially motivated ones.
2) I didn't know that adoption can sometimes mask Trafficking.
Another shocker for me. I just assumed if someone said they were doing all the paperwork that meant is was a legitimate adoption. It never occurred to me that people will/can/do make up abandonment stories. I never imagined someone would tell birth parents who were looking for temporary help that their child could stay with them, get educated and medical care and then adopt those kids out from under those birth parents noses. Knowing this now does NOT make me want to stop adoptions but instead makes me want to spread awareness on how to keep this from continuing to happen. Staying uneducated about the process or those involved will not help stop this. It is not just important for adopting parents to research and understand these issues but NECESSESARY if we want to help stop this from continuing. Jen Hatmaker has an awesome blog on “Red Flags” and questions you need to ask before getting involved with an agency. When she posted this blog last year I was actually very angry with her thinking she was trying to stop our adoptions but the truth was I just was not ready to face the reality of what I had gotten myself into the middle of. I was fortunate in that I knew my kids parents personally and that my kids had been in an orphanage before I met them. There were many people who had contact and information about their past, their situation and their families. Sadly, many of my adopting friends weren’t so fortunate and some will never bring the children they fell in love with, and thought they were adopting, home because their adoption was a lie and their bio parents never knew they were being adopted out from them.
3) I didn't know that not all birthparents understand what adoption is.
Many bio parents think that adoption means their kids will come back and help them when they get old enough. Truth is there is no obligation to the birth parent from anyone and bio parents who believe that and express that can often halt an adoption. In most international adoption situations you won’t know the bio parents so it’s important, again, that you work with and know that your agency or directors are legitimately working with the bio parents to make sure they understand and have no other options. Tara Livesay posted this blog and it was a hard read but the more I watched adoptions unravel around me because of unethical behavior involving the bio families the more I realized that if we have any contact or knowledge of bio parents then we need to be 100% sure we are doing everything we can to be sure the kids in the adoption pile are only the ones that need to be there. There ARE PLENTY of true orphans so we should be focusing on those for adoption and on first families for those who have that option.
"I think most adoptive families (choosing to adopt internationally especially) enter into the process thinking they will be helping a child that desperately needs a family. Over and over adoption is marketed as- "Giving a child what they deserve: A family." My struggle is, most of these kids have that family before we arrive. We've not done enough to help their families have other options. We've not invested enough time in educating the birth families; first families frequently don't fully understand what they signed up for, nor do they understand what they can expect in the future."
4) I didn't even know what “red flags” were or that I had an obligation to my children to make sure their adoption was everything I was told it was: ETHICAL.
I wanted to just hear and read about the good things. I wanted to believe everything our adoption director told us even when it didn’t make sense. I wanted to trust blindly and not question things that I didn't understand or that didn't make sense to me for fear my adoption would be penalized, as I saw others were. I again learned the hard way that that type of attitude in adoption is what helps allow fraudulent adoptions to continue to go on. Had I done my research early on I may have been able to spare myself a lot of headache and heartache by knowing what ethical practices look like and how. Here are examples from families about the director/agency we were working with and how many of us missed or ignored warning signs.
A friend of mine I met through our adoption FB group, Michelle Bordin, posted once that adoption is not "Unicorns farts that turn into rainbows". I love that mental picture because I sure went in unprepared for anything but sparkles. We don’t send our kids to school unprepared, we don’t go to job interviews uneducated, we don’t go through all this work to prepare for an adoption to stand by unprepared and uneducated unless you are inviting failure.
I can look back now, like many adopting parents I’ve talked to, and realize how much time I lost with the family that was with me because I was too busy waiting on, crying for, and dreaming of the family we were creating. I was less productive at work because I was always distracted with adoption news (or in our case, adoption DRAMA). I let the adoption wait consume my energy, my thoughts, my fears and my time. The good side to this were the many, many connections I made with other moms in our FB group. I wish I would have been less obsessive with news and movement and occupied my mind either with educational material or simply with my kids here who really missed having me genuinely here with them more often than not.
I don’t think any of us will ever feel like we’ve done it all right or gone in knowing everything but knowing something is a step ahead of where you were and could be the step that leads to you away from disaster with your adoption.
I hated most of my adoption journey and it never should have been that way. It doesn’t have to be that way. I am living my family dream right now and because I have my kids I can sit and type this up and I’m okay. Still my heart is heavy for my friends who only have a memory now of a child they loved and others who are still in the midst of ripping off the “Red Flags” we were all buried under. Adoption should be full of "unicorns farting rainbows" and maybe sometimes those rainbows may stink a little but the “pot of gold” at the end of that rainbow is priceless and worth it.
Look for another blog soon on all the POSITIVE things I learned through our adoption and more resources to help you if you are just getting started or are trying to dig out of the trenches you’re hiding in.
Remember…. A light shines the brightest in the darkest places so no matter what you go through in your adoption keep your light on. Somewhere there’s a child waiting to see it.