There’s a lot of press these days about ethical adoptions. A number of new books have recently come out, a documentary is making a nationwide tour, and the DRC has been seeing some ups and downs with its program (maybe other countries too, but I mostly follow DRC).
On one of my FB group pages, a common question is posed: How can we ensure that adoptions are ethical? I love the hearts of the adoptive parents out there. We all want to have ethical adoptions. No one gets into adoption to traffic a child. I personally know parents who have discovered that their adoption shouldn’t have passed muster, and the heartache is great. But is it possible to avoid this? The how is so much harder.
Faced with the difficulty of ensuring an ethical adoption, parents can go one of three ways: give up entirely, go forward in the face of possible shady circumstances, and move heaven and earth to try and do it ethically. There are certainly pros and cons to each approach, and it’s hard to say which is really the right answer. The waters are muddy.
And isn’t that what’s so hard about ethics? Once you are sure that no laws are broken, there’s still an area of gray. Sometimes the answer is unclear.
This is why I am still on the fence about starting again. I don’t want to give up, but I am scared of getting back in the water. I don’t want to screw it up!
As a Christian, I am called to get into the water. All the way to the deep end. Yes, we can’t fix all the problems with international adoption. The whole idea comes out of a broken, messy tragedy. Same with global poverty, world hunger, sex trafficking, war. There are no easy answers. But we have to try, don’t we? Because sometimes it works. Sometimes there is redemption.
And, really, what else do we have to do? Isn’t this why we are on earth? To work towards redemption and restoration. I can’t sit home and just focus on myself and my family. That’s not why I was put on the earth. I have been given so much, and I have a responsibility to use my resources towards this goal of restoration.
It’s scary. It’s hard. I don’t have any answers. But I will keep walking forward in obedience to the One who does.
I don’t have much to update today, but I hope to later this week! Baby’s coming soon, Lord willing.
I was honored a couple weeks ago that my blog was mentioned by PEAR (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform) in a post about ethics in DRC adoptions. PEAR is a non-profit org that seeks to provide resources and information to prospective adoptive parents, specifically in the arena of ethics. I have found their website really helpful and necessary as we try and navigate the process. Check it out!
My blog post on Adoption Agency Accountability was also mentioned by The Adopted Ones Blog last week. So fun! It’s a great blog from an adoptee’s perspective.
Finally, I recommend you read Family Hope Love if you are passionate about caring for orphans and widows. Sara is writing a book geared toward international adoption reform as a parent who has walked the journey. She wrote a very convicting post that, I think, really highlights the role we are prospective parents play in encouraging further corruption. It’s a tough read, but worth it.
Well, the world didn’t end so I’m back to buying toilet paper in bulk.
BB, just in case, worked until midnight to make sure those last few things were finished! Gotta love that spirit. I went promptly to bed because it’s my favorite thing to do. As I was going to bed, I told BB two things in case the world ended. First, that I loved him dearly and enjoyed every minute of our life together and second, that I had no desire whatsoever to survive the end of the world so not to try and save me should the opportunity arise. Seriously, I’ve seen the movies. Who wants to survive that? Do you honestly want to live in a world with no running water or electricity, eating beans out of a can and running from bands of crazed cannibals? No thanks. I’ll go out with the nuke please.
I did spend some time thinking about the end of the world as I was going to sleep. I don’t get into the predictions, but I do believe that God wants us to live as if every day was our last. I was thinking through my life and contemplating any unfinished business I may have.
Ultimately, I fell asleep. But in the middle of the night I awoke in the middle of a vivid dream about confronting our adoption agency. Then I spent about 30 minutes going over the dream and coming up with more things I would say to them if given another opportunity. Apparently this is my unfinished business.
I think the latest obsession comes from some phone conversations with another mom about her families’ issues with One World and then also I’ve started organizing all the photos of the children to put in storage. I am sad because I so want to be over it. I desperately want to forgive and move on. I don’t want this bitterness to take root. At the same time, it’s necessary to stay in the fight. I truly think God is uniquely using me to advocate for other families and children, to educate people and to encourage change. I love it, and I’m grateful for the privilege. But it’s hard to re-live the drama over and over again.
I ended up being able to sleep once I started praying. I may not be able to quite reach forgiveness and freedom yet, but I can pray for it. God has his work cut out in softening my heart.
While it would have been nice to wake up this morning in the presence of Jesus, the Lord has other plans. There’s still work to be done and so we are still here.
I finally figured it out. Apparently I must have eaten some sort of small alien super-mouse, who is now grown to be about 6 pounds and is trying to claw his way out. This makes a lot more sense than me being pregnant and explains a lot of what’s been going on. I’ll let you know when he escapes.
Who’s ready for Christmas? We watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation last week so I am. Since we are going gift-free, this is basically a stress-free holiday full of lots of cookies and Christmas music. Highly recommended.
Speaking of Christmas music, apparently BB was not actually born in this country or somehow grew up somewhere Christmas music is hated. He’s supposed to sing Christmas music at an event on Saturday, and this morning he asked me to teach him the melody of the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I am still flabbergasted. Whoever is waging that War on Christmas must be quite proud of himself!
I’m looking forward to the holiday distraction myself. Getting a little restless over here. In some ways, I’m in the home stretch of meeting this little peanut and yet at the same time, it is still a far way away. I need a deadline to work. Not that I want him to come any sooner because we all know what happens when a baby comes – everything is awful. There’s crying and pooping and crying and no sleeping. Lord help me. This baby better be darn cute. I’m really counting on being able to keep my daily nap schedule and to watch The Wire. Apparently this makes me mildly delusional.
Thus, I have started my “to do before baby” list, which so far includes: hair cut, be extra nice to BB, pedicure, see Les Mis, clean apartment. To be fair, clean apartment has been on every to do list I’ve ever made.
I need a few good fiction books to read during this last push, so feel free to send me your recommendations. I just returned “Lionheart” by Sharon Kay Penman to the library having only read 2/3 of it over the past month and a half. I usually devour her books, but this one just didn’t capture my attention. I have a number of non-fiction books on adoption, sex trafficking, the Holy Spirit, and marriage on my shelf, but none of those are drawing me in at the moment either. I need fiction. Yummy, colorful, fanciful fiction.
Leaving you with my Advent meditation verse for the day:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince Of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with Judgment and with Justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Love that it’s “unto US.” Jesus is God’s gift to us.
Also love that Jesus came to establish judgment and justice. Feeling a real need for that in 2012. I keep hearing more stories from other One World Adoption families about trials they are facing in their adoptions, and it just makes me so angry. It’s so heart-breaking for the children and families. God’s justice will be done, and I have to take comfort in that. No one gets away with anything even if we don’t see the justice done.
Hope your holiday preparations are going well.
I’m still pondering what we’ve learned. I’m dabbling in a few different online groups and reading lots of stories of adoption that involve ethical disasters. How I wished I would have read (or paid attention) to these things years ago! But, like many things in life, I often have to learn the hard way.
I feel for adoptive parents out there. You have this strong calling on your heart, and you are answering it. You hear Russell Moore and the Warrens speak so passionately, and you refuse to ignore it. You see the beautiful pictures and hear the stories of abandoned orphans now being part of a family. We all want that to be our story. None of us got into this to traffic children or to coerce children away from their families. There are easier, more fun ways to spend your time and money than adoption.
What can we do? I think we must must must demand accountability from adoption agencies. Just as I am reading more about demanding accountability from chocolate, clothing and coffee manufacturers to ensure they aren’t using slave labor, so we must do the same with adoption agencies to make sure their children are legitimate, legal orphans who actually need to be adopted.
The first thing we must realize is that international adoptions in America is a business. These agencies are out to make money. Yes, they may have chosen this industry because they want to help orphans, just as Steve Jobs started Apple probably in part because he just liked computers and technology. At the end of the day, money is why we do business. Most of us would not go to work if they stopped paying us even if we really liked what we did.
We cannot be naive and accept that these agencies are full of good-hearted people who can do no wrong. They may be good-hearted, well-intentioned people, but sometimes those people can do the most harm because they lack a certain cynicism necessary to do business. At One World Adoption Services, Inc., for example, the director and staff were nice. They cared about the children and the families. But unfortunately, they have blinders on when it comes to doing business in the DRC. They trusted the wrong people and refused to see their mistakes (and still refuse). Are they kind? Yes. Are they Christians? Probably. But that is not enough to operate an adoption agency.
Follow the money. We live in a time where the term non-profit has basically become meaningless except for tax purposes, yet we all believe that if we are using a non-profit adoption agency, then we are in the clear. Wrong. So wrong. The agency directors and staff are making money off of these adoptions. How else could they afford to do business? They might not be getting mega-millions, but they are bringing home a paycheck.
It’s time we demand to know what these agencies are charging for. What’s a referral fee? To me, that sounds an awful lot like paying for the agency to find you a referral. We shouldn’t need to find referrals. There are either kids in orphanages who need to be adopted, or there aren’t. Agencies should not have an incentive to “find” a child to fit the profile so they can collect the fee.
Agencies must investigate referrals independently of their in-country staff. This is a no brainer. One World told us that they do not ever investigate or verify any information they receive from the DRC. This is appalling.
Agencies must have a presence on the ground on a very regular basis. How can you oversee something but never see it? How do you hire staff you’ve never met? One World refuses to travel to visit the orphanage or check up on things, even after a large-scale scandal.
These issues are not limited to One World or DRC. I have connected with many other families who have struggled with ethical adoptions from other countries with other agencies. We cannot afford to turn a blind eye. That would be a disservice to the orphans and widows we desire to serve.
I’ve been trying to take it easy this week, which means that so far today I took a two hour nap and watched Miracle on 34th Street (the original). [I also went on a 5 mile walk, so not super easy.]
The past two days I’ve been reviewing our photos and videos from our trip to DRC and Paris. [It’s a lot like when Clark Griswold gets stuck in the attic and watches the slideshow.] This is the first time I’ve looked at them. At first it was because I couldn’t handle it. Then I just sort of forgot. It has been fun recalling the adventure, and I wanted to share with you some highlights of the trip.
My parents took us to O’Hare. We flew to Brussels and ended up scoring a free upgrade to Economy Plus. Awesome! Of course our flight sat on the runway at O’Hare for over an hour before taking off. Since we had a very quick layover in Brussels, we were sure to miss our second flight. When we landed in Brussels, we pushed our way to the front and ran as fast as we could to the gate. We made it, but our bags didn’t. We were lucky though because the people who missed the flight ended up spending almost two days in Brussels before they got to Kinshasa.
We landed in Kinshasa around 6 pm. The airport was super small and in the middle of a field. We flew in over the Congo River. It looks exactly as you would imagine it (see blog banner if you can’t imagine). We found our escort upon exiting the plane and then we waited for about two hours to see if our bags made it. We were sure they didn’t but felt it was prudent to wait around. The baggage claim scene was unique, to say the least. People actually hire help to push their way to the front and retrieve their bags. I sat back and enjoyed watching my adorably pale sweetheart do his best to fight the fight.
We piled into a van with about eight other passengers from Europe – none of whom spoke English (and neither did our driver). By now, it was dark and late. Thank God BB asked the flight attendant for water for his pregnant wife. Those two liters of water were life-savers for the multi-hour journey to the guesthouse. Our guesthouse was the last stop. Matthew (our driver) told us he would come back in the morning to take us to get our bags.
We arrived at the guesthouse around 10:30 pm. The receptionist didn’t speak English. Luckily, my high school French came back to me well enough to communicate our situation. He promptly told us that our reservation wasn’t until the next day and that he didn’t have any rooms for us. Apparently my French gets better with anger and exhaustion (this will come back later), and we were able to persuade him that if he didn’t give us a room, we were going to sleep in front of the desk since there wasn’t exactly a Best Western across the street.
We had arrived and could finally sleep. Praise God!
Here I am at the guesthouse.
Since we weren’t in Kinshasa for vacation and only ended up being there for four days, we didn’t do much sight-seeing or exploring. We spent a lot of time at the guesthouse and a lot of time at the Brussels Airlines office trying to get our bags (at lease one trip a day – we finally got the last one the morning before we left).
Here we are at the Brussels Airlines office!
On our second day there, we took our journey to meet the birth family of the kids. I like to call it our “Nicholas Kristof: On Assignment” adventure. P picked us up in his car that morning, and we headed out. Where? We basically didn’t know. We first went to the market to pick up some food items to deliver to the family, including some frozen chickens. [This is relevant to later in the story.] We drove to pick up the kids’ grandmother at her church and then headed to her house. Along the way, the car broke down. Twice. It overheated. Both times P was able to get it back running.
On our adventure.
About halfway through the drive, it occurred to me that we probably should have told someone in the world where we were going and with whom. Sorry Dad – I’m sure you taught me this growing up! I’ll try to remember that sooner next time.
It was hot. Luckily, we had our cooling system on our laps – remember the frozen chickens!
We finally made it and enjoyed a nice afternoon with the family. The women complemented my large hips, butt and boobs. Much appreciated.
We left to start the long journey back. We have some videos that I want to share, but apparently I need to upgrade my blog to do that. We sang praise songs most of the ride home because we didn’t know what else to say. I’m so glad we have those videos to remember how we felt. It was such a bizarre mixture of joy in knowing that we had learned what we needed to and also sorrow knowing that the adoption was over.
That night we mourned. I’ll spare you the details except to say that God was so present with us.
We were able to leave about 50% of what we brought to Kinshasa with us. We gave the clothes and toys to the family for the kids. We were able to leave food, dishes and other things with our friend from church’s family in Kinshasa. That was a huge blessing and helped us to feel like God really used our trip for good.
We then planned our trip home. A few photos of the drive to the airport.
One more story about how my anger helped me communicate in French. As we were boarding the plane, the security guard told me I couldn’t bring my water. I won that debate. I’m pretty sure at one point I told Bill – they can take my kids, but I’ll be d***ed if they take my water! I think he thought about leaving me there at that point.
As much as the trip was hard, we had so much fun, and it was filled with beauty. We got part of the adventure that we wanted. We met beautiful, kind, loving people. We saw the dark side of adoption (not just the fraud but some less than lovely behavior from American adoptive parents). Our hearts were broken for the DRC. We mourned more than we ever had before, but God never left us. We were blessed to put his promises to the test.
Every moment of the trip was foreordained by the Lord. We felt we were exactly where we were supposed to be and are still so grateful that we went.
Kinshasa is a beautiful place with a rich and sad history. I hope to return someday when I can spend more time and explore more.
This Christmas, BB is singing two Messiah concerts. As I listened this past weekend, I pulled out the Bible to follow along with Isaiah 40 as he sang:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
One of my favorite prophecies of Advent. There’s no way that the Isrealites could have really understood what God was promising them. Nor could they have known how long it would be before that voice cried out from the wilderness.
Yesterday I decorated the Christmas tree. I love decorating the tree. Put on my Bing Crosby Holiday Pandora station and pulled out the bins from the basement. It’s such a Christmas tradition – transforming our residences into a festive celebration. I loved doing this as a family when we were kids. We would pull out the old ornaments, trying to remember who made which ones. There’s this Christmas tree ornament that my parents still hang that I made in preschool. It’s just construction paper with a few crayon scribbles. My sisters try and convince my parents to throw it away, but it keeps surviving each year. [I’m watching you girls.]
The holidays for me are a time to remember. I remember leaving out cookies for Santa, and in the morning, there would be crumbs and a thank you note. I remember waking up really early one year when Santa decided to save money on wrapping paper (I think my baby sister was about 6 weeks old at Christmas), so all the gifts were laid out under the tree unwrapped. I was able to play with my new Barbie and swimming pool before anyone else awoke.
This year I found the Christmas ornaments that my mom made last year for Freddy and Carolyn. I found the stockings my Grandmother made for them. I remember. Last Christmas, we were sure that it would be our last Christmas without them. They had a few gifts under the tree, lovingly selected and wrapped by their soon-to-be new grandparents, aunts and uncles. It felt slightly risky, but we were confident that God was bringing them home to us in 2012. We were filled with anticipation and excitement for the next Christmas when we could share with them our holiday traditions.
A friend of mine is in China right now picking up her son. Another friend is returning from Uganda tomorrow with her son. We were all in the adoption process together – supporting each other, praying for each other. While I am so happy for them, I am jealous. So very jealous.
People always ask us if we are relieved that the adoption didn’t work out since we are pregnant, and four kids would have been too many. Meaning well and admittedly, we were quite overwhelmed with the idea of four kids at once, the answer is a resounding no. We are gladdened that the children have been reunited with their family – it’s where they should be. But we do not feel relieved of the burden. We feel cheated. We are still grieving this loss. It was a burden we wanted. It was a burden we prayed for, hoped for, longed for.
Unlike the Isrealites, I am blessed to know exactly how the story ends. I know that God is not promising me an earthly victory. There’s no promise that next Christmas we will be parents. But I have promises that are much bigger than parenthood. I will take comfort in those promises knowing that God will supply all my needs.