Monday, May 14, 2012

Adoption is NOT cool.

Did I get your attention? Are you ready to throw tomatoes?

Hopefully you'll at least take the time to read through this post to get where I'm coming from. No, I haven't gone mad and suddenly become some crazy anti-adoption advocate. I have become more of a child advocate in different ways and I've taken a long hard look at the orphan crisis and I'm continuing to develop my thoughts on the matter.  Come take a walk through my brain.

As the waters of international adoption in Ethiopia have become murky, wait times increase and people wonder what the future holds, it has caused me to wonder what has changed. Why has adoption in Ethiopia gone from a huge need to an almost demand? The quick answer? Because of us. Yes. That's hard to swallow. Yes its painful. That doesn't change the reality.

Let me explain.

Ethiopia is home to over 5 million orphans. Of those orphans a much smaller number are actual double orphans or in layman's terms truly in need of a family. This means that many of these children have at least a mom or a dad that would like to care for them. Yes, I said that.  I said it because its true.  Mothers and Fathers don't generally give up their children unless they feel they HAVE to.  As a mother I know this is true, I would challenge any mother that said it wasn't.  Some children actually have family members that would care for them if that was financially possible for them.

Adoption is necessary because we live in a broken world.  
Its not glamorous.  Its painful.

This is a difficult subject.  Not everyone wants to hear it and some just honestly don't know.  I used to be in the "I didn't know" group.  Because I used to be in that place I feel that much stronger about the need to speak out.  We need to advocate for change, stand up for those who have no voice (James 1:27) and work on the ethics in international adoption vs. pretending everything is great.  Yes, even if that means waiting longer or stopping to correct things.

Just because we feel "called" to adopt doesn't mean we should throw ethics to the wayside.

I'm sure some of you are sitting back saying "sure, now that she's home with her kids she can get on the ethics bandwagon".  I've been pretty pointed about my feelings on ethics from the beginning.  It was what drove our agency choice and unfortunately knowing what we know now I cannot in good conscience recommend them any longer.  Much of the things we've learned/seen have come about after the fact and much in part because we stayed in Ethiopia for a month and saw a lot of what was happening at a ground level.  Asked questions and pushed for answers.  We can't help the timing but we also can't sit back and be silent. 

God doesn't need us to solve the orphan crisis.  He allows us to be apart.  We need to advocate on ALL levels.

My reason for finally posting this blog that's been written for months is simple.  I can't be silent.  As adoptive parents we owe it to ourselves and to our children to be educated on what's going on in the world of International adoption.  (domestic as well but that's a completely different blog post)

We must advocate, we must be honest, and we must speak up!

So how do we fix it?  I believe its a complex issue and there is no "right" answer.  I do think that adoption is part of the solution for the orphan crisis but I think in some respects Christians have come to a place of thinking its OUR job to solve this.  God doesn't need us to solve the orphan crisis.  Nope.  Not a bit.  Do we really think He's not capable of righting all wrongs all on his own?  He does however invite us to be apart, he commands us to care for orphans and widows.  Fight for the oppressed, speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.  Adoption is part of that.  I don't think adoption is ALWAYS the right answer.  Please bear with me in what I'm about to say next.  I don't believe that God wants us to adopt children who have been taken from their parents.  That is NOT Gods intent.  I've heard some say "well he/she is still better off with me".  Really?  Better off with you or me vs. their biological family that God designed and sovereignly placed there?  I don't think so.  It seems we're missing the point.  Where are the adoption agencies with STRONG family preservation programs?  Are we advocating for KEEPING kids IN families or are we just worried about building ours?  Shouldn't our first and foremost goal be to keep families together?  If mama is giving up her baby because she doesn't have the $30 a month it costs to support her family shouldn't we do something about that?  I think so.

Now let me back up a little before you completely stop reading.  Please hear me.  I DO believe there is a true need for families to adopt, I just don't think that need is as HUGE as its currently being played out in some countries.  I do believe there are children of ALL ages that need families.  Yes, that includes infants, toddlers, HIV+ kids, special needs kids, and teenagers that desperately need families!  BUT my question is do we have our focus correct or are we just adopting because WE want another child or because its our "mission"?  What's the purpose of adopting a child and leaving a mother or family for that matter heart broken when $30 a month could change the circumstances?

Adoption agencies are making money on adoption.  I know some of you may find that cruel and mean but it's true. Adoption has become a "business" of sorts.  PLEASE don't get me wrong, I love adoption, I love many adoption agencies and I think they are doing the best they can (some better then others) but I urge you to please look at the whole picture.  ASK your agency what their family preservation programs look like.  That would be the deal breaker for me if we were to adopt again.

Many people assume we adopted because it was the "cool thing" or because we like Angelina and Brad a whole lot.  Neither of those are true, well I do kinda like Brangelina but that had zero to do with our adoption choices.  Adoption is not for wimps! It is hard.  It is messy.  Anyone who thinks otherwise should spend a day in the life of a family fresh home with their new baby/child!  

I write this not to cause an international uproar, I write it because its important.  I write this because we have personal experience and we cannot be quiet.  I write this because I cannot be silent.  As adoptive parents we must advocate for mothers, for children, those waiting, those adopted, those who will be adopted.  All of them matter.  All of them deserve an advocate. 


Third Mom said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And may I just say thank you again.

Lara said...

Preach it, sister!

Anonymous said...

Greatly appreciate this blog--its honesty and its genuineness. Thank you for posting. My husband and I plan to adopt in the future, and I read each of these adoption blogs hoping to learn more and more before we begin the process. Thank you for adding to our understanding.

The Dishmans said...

Thank you Erica!! You've expressed feelings and thoughts that I've had in my heart for quite some time. As an adoptive mom to a former "true" orphan whose both parents are deceased, had no other family members to care for her, and had lived in an orphanage for 3 years, I agree that YES there is a need for international adoption but not at the expense of ethics. Much (not all) of what is going on right now in Ethiopia with adoptions is wrong! It's human trafficking. And human trafficking for any reason: labor, prostitution, or adoption, is wrong. Shame on us Christians (and I'm including myself here) for not doing more to stop this injustice!

Jenni said...

Thank you for saying this! The NEED is there, but it may not be the need we want to focus on. Family preservation, older child adoption, SN adoption. It's messy, it's complicated but as Christians we should feel ready to step in and be the hands and feet.

Kelly said...

I think this is a really well written post and agree completely! I'm on the domestic side of adoption and can say that we have done things SO differently in picking our adoption agency then the first time around. I feel SO strongly about birthmothers and supporting them through the whole process whether they decide to parent or not. We have always said that we want to be there for birthparents and their children when they can't parent and don't want to parent.

Unknown said...

I came across your blog from a friend. I wanted to clarify. Are you saying that you believe the need for people to adopt infants from Ethiopia is no longer there? Do you believe that if infant adoption stopped in Ethiopia that there would be little repercussions? I am honestly curious. We are in the process right now of adopting from Ethiopia. Thanks, KAyla

Erica said...

Hey Kayla -

I think you've misunderstood. Here's my direct quote in regards to your question.

"I do believe there are children of ALL ages that need families. Yes, that includes infants, toddlers, HIV+ kids, special needs kids, and teenagers that desperately need families! BUT my question is do we have our focus correct or are we just adopting because WE want another child or because its our "mission"? What's the purpose of adopting a child and leaving a mother or family for that matter heart broken when $30 a month could change the circumstances?"

My point is that the system is broken, there is corruption, its known by all, and it needs to be fixed. That's all I'm saying.

The other side of it is that IF agencies were doing as good of a job with their family preservation programs as they are with getting babies from orphanages I do think we would see a much smaller number of infants needing adoption. (its also known that the corruption runs deep and often happens before the agency level but in my opinion that doesn't mean the agencies are blameless. It is their responsibility to make SURE adoptions are ethical at every level, agencies that do independent investigations are on the right track.)

hsb7x said...

I get what you are saying. But--- there is a place for Mothers who are sick or want their child to have a better life. It is a much better option than abortion(like the USA). I agree the system is corrupt in many cases-but not most adoptions. There are also abandoned children all over the world- what about them? Whatever God calls you to - you should go for it.
The Guatamalan system was a mess when they decided to have no more adoptions. I hope that isn't the plan for Ethiopia. The longer you have to wait to receive an "orphan" it makes you wonder if they are really orphans- or just waiting for more babies to be born. Maybe if Unicef would build more wells to get clean water and actually advocate for families there would be much less babies abandoned because they are starving or just don't have the energy or resources to feed another child.
I am sure if women were given the option to choose adoption or abortion in Ethiopia they would choose abortion alot because of the lie from the devil that it is easier to have an abortion.

Erica said...

hsb7x - How do you know that its not "most adoptions"? Have you researched and interviewed families to come to that conclusion? Also how many corrupt adoptions would warrant change?

I think you've misunderstood my point. I've NEVER said "don't adopt" nor did I say "there's no children that need families". I've simply said we need to do our part to keep kids in families and ensure that our demand isn't what is driving the "supply". Its not healthy.

In regards to UNICEF - my point is that WE as adoptive parents, Christians and advocates should be doing MORE and not just leaving it to "others" or "unicef". There's more to the orphan crisis then just adoption.

Also, women in Ethiopia do abort unfortunately. Its not talked about but it absolutely happens.

Unknown said...

Thank you for responding to me! I do agree with you and appreciate your post. :)


Laura said...

perfectly written and oh so true!!

Rachel said...

Yep. Totally reposting.

hsb7x said...

I am all for doing more for Families in Ethiopia. We will never know which adoptions are totally truthful, either. Adoption needs to be an option for these women. I know there are some abortions(mostly unsafe) in ethiopia- but when you are having trouble buying food, then most people aren't going to choose abortion. Some Moms just don't want to parent- even if given the money (look at our country- and we have welfare). It is unfair to say if given money most would keep their babies. Adoption is a valid option. It is messy and emotional- but a good option for some moms. We need to do more to help communities- and Unicef doesn't do much to support Moms and kids, even though they claim to help. Christians need to listen to God, and ask Him for wisdom. Adoption is a good thing.

Erica said...

hsb7x - I have never ever ever said that adoption was a bad thing. Hello I have adopted twice. You are missing my point.

Unethical adoption is NEVER okay. I didn't say that adoption shouldn't be an option. I think it should, I also believe a mother should have the choice to give up her child if she doesn't want to parent or can't parent. However in third world countries it is more likely that they can't parent due to finances and THAT is what I am saying shouldn't be.

I don't believe we should depend on UNICEF to do anything. WE as adoptive parents, Christians, and human beings SHOULD be doing something besides JUST adopting. That's my point.

I will continue to stand by my post and we as Christians cannot compromise "listening to God" and hiding behind that in order to justify unethical behavior. If no one stands up for those without a voice, those who are stolen from their families, those who are paid off for their children, it will continue and that is not right.

hsb7x said...

You will never know if your adoptions are completely ethical- Never- unless you talk to the Mom yourself. I agree- we need to do everything we can to pick a good, reputable agency that you trust. I understand your stance that we need to do more- but other than move over to Ethiopia what are you going to do? I am not trying to be mean to you. We have both adopted. I don't want to remain ignorant- you must be getting your information from something that is really frustrating you(like the terrible long wait to adopt). But none of us will ever know if our kids (that the agency said were abandoned) weren't stolen. What is it that you are trying to encourage people to do ? Are you just venting?
I agree- someone is fudging the numbers about there being 5 million orphans in Ethiopia. If there are that many why is it so long of a wait?

Erica said...

hsb7x - Nope, not frustrated about long waits at all. We're not in the process of adopting right now.

Where are you getting your information? I happen to know MULTIPLE families that DO have the truth (myself included) so I do speak from a place of knowing truth from the source.

You say none of us will ever know? I'm not trying to be mean but that's a very ignorant statement. Many of us DO know and that is my entire point of posting this blog.

I'm not venting, I'm attempting to educate others to realize there is more that can be done and needs to be done in regards to orphan care.

There is LOTS we can do from here. I'll be posting about some ways you can do that in my next blog post. :)

Jocelyn said...

:) I love this post!

Deb said...

Adoption is NOT a solution to poverty. Isn't that your point, Erica? To give up a child because you think you cannot care for her is no answer. Let's help people care for and keep their biological children! And this entitlement view in the US is about to drive me batty. These children belong to someone. If you cannot wait or cannot check ethics or cannot be bothered to think about reunification efforts by agencies, you had better check your reasons for adopting. And yes. I'M venting!

Emily said...

Erica! I totally agree! I appreciate your courage to speak the truth. While I am comfortable with our adoption due to his special needs status and a few other things, I experienced enough to not recommend our agency either. Part of that is what all your family had to deal with in country with them. Since having him home, I've asked God so many times what our family can do to prevent other families from being in the same situation and we just started participating in a family sponsorship program that I feel really good about. When I was in ET in March, my time there solidified that our next step was to help keep families together. I love your heart! And I love knowing others feel the same way I do!

woosterweester said...

Lots to think about. Thank you for sharing. I so wish I could sit down and pick your brain, hear your, like, seriously I wish I could just chat with you...I am open to learning more as we are along this adoption journey (been in process for 17 months) to God's leading and wanting to be part of the solution not part of the problem. We are contracted with an agency but have continued to be prayerfully open to how God orders our steps. I know you're a busy lady, but if it's ever possible I'd love to shoot you an email? Thanks again. I get your heart in this.

Erica said...

Absolutely wooster. Here's my email. erica dot shubin @

Jill said...

I totally agree with your post and I'm interested in the commenter that seems to think most adoptions are ethical and above board. I wish that were true. And I think one of the "advantages" of adopting from Ethiopia is that you can usually find someone that knows your child's story, be it a birth family member or a neighbor, whatever. I'm finding a large percentage of my adoptive friends have or are in the process of reconnecting with their child's roots. In the case of my daughter's story, the research I have done shows that her adoption WAS ethical but definitely NOT truthful. I know, you are thinking that how can it be ethical if it wasn't truthful....what I mean is that her adoption was legal and necessary but the original story around it was completely fabricated. I was relieved to find this out but angry at those who falsify records at any level. I know many families that have not found that peace when they've found out their childrens' stories....and the majority is leaning in the favor of those stories, unfortunately.

hsb7x said...

If we didn't think that our adoption are ethical then why are any of us adopting? Maybe I am ignorant - and too trusting. I am not trying to cause anyone to get upset with me- I don't have any kind of "inside" information- and maybe I am clueless. We have to do all we can do to help families out in these situations. I am not blind to problems with adoption, though and I don't think that calling adoption human trafficking is fair either!

Jill said...

Not all adoption is bad and everyone hopes that their adoption is honest. I adopted in good faith and felt very comfortable with my agency, both in the US and in Ethiopia. There were a few minor descrepencies but I chalked them up to translation errors. And when reports coming out of Ethiopia starting showing that corruption was going on, I dismissed them because I did feel comfortable with my agency. But then I started having conversations with families that used the same agency, kids from the same orphanage, etc and my fantasy world kind of fell apart. Interestingly enough, I met my daughter birthmother in Eth but she would not answer a lot of my questions. Turns out, she had been told not answer them because it could make her child unadoptable. Truthfully, it wouldn't have. The adoption was legit even if the circumstances weren't exactly what they seemed. Sadly, most of the stories coming from families that have reconnected with birth families are not so reassuring. And as far as the trafficking is concerned, being paid or promised anything in return for giving up your child is trafficking.

I used to think it was a small percentage, very rare. But I've had to open my eyes and shed a lot of tears over what is happening. I do support adoption and I hope to adopt again. It can be appropriate but only as an absolute last resort. Right now, I focus my passion on organizations that work to keep families together, promote legit business opportunities, and work on getting families to be independent and together.

hsb7x said...

You all should read the post on "a place called simplicity" blog- she has it right!!! I felt encouraged when I read her blog post. I know that you all are speaking out of hurt and sadness for your kids- and that is very understandable. Love and blessings to you all. Heather

LilySea said...

Most of the "true orphans" creating a "crisis" in the world are older children, often living on the streets. Almost no one wants to adopt these children. if adopting a relatively healthy young baby or toddler would really solve the problem, that would be easy. If we are called to adopt orphans (and I am far from convinced this is what the Bible is commanding--I think it is commanding that we create just societies in which orphans don't often exist), it shouldn't be something so easy as all that.

If you really want to share sacrificial love with children in need, foster a child in the U.S. Adopt a waiting child from foster care who is highly unlikely ever to get a forever family. Don't go caravanning across the world so that your friends will think you are Super Jesus Lover and put you on a pedestal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for speaking up!! You said this very well and I agree completely.

I was just in Uganda and Rwanda working on research for a book about these topics. Hopefully it will be published by the fall!

Erica said...

Heather - Thank you for your comments - I really do appreciate your side. I personally am not speaking for just my children. I'm speaking for ALL children, for ALL birth parents, and for the long term outlook for adoption and ethics. That's all. When I originally wrote the blog I honestly didn't find it controversial. I felt that every parent would feel that ethics in adoption was of utmost importance. I didn't speak against any age of adoption, I don't find one more "noble" then another and I've stated that multiple times here. I've simply stated that ethics should be put above our desire to parent and we should do whatever it takes to ensure that. WE as adoptive parents should be fighting for that. That was my point, is my point, and continues to be my point.

I do read Linny's blog, love her, agree with her, but I still believe ethics are to be fought for. God doesn't say take away other peoples children, he says to fight for the rights of orphans and widows. That means fighting from all aspects not just adoption. That's my only point. Not to debate, to be some vigilante, simply to say lets unite, lets stand up and help change what is wrong.

LilySea - Thank you for your comments - for the record, our decision to adopt Internationally doesn't make us some Super Jesus Lover. Nope. My actions don't make me some better then you person. My children saved my from myself. They taught me patience on an all new level, they've made me a better mom, they aren't "lucky" to have me, I'm blessed to be their mom. Its not about me really. Its about Jesus and His love for me. The least I can do is love my children. Adoption/orphan care/child advocacy is needed all over the world. One isn't better then another. Every child deserves a family.