An Adoption Manifesto
This is the second time in the past four years that we have been at the end of a home study and ready to add a child (or two) to our little family. Our first attempt, undertaken in Tennessee, went smoothly through every step of the process, but the months ticked by as we waited for a match and I began to get discouraged. We watched other families, who started their adoptive journey at the same time, bring their babies home. I can’t imagine feeling any happier for them than I did (and do), because I intimately understood where they had been and how the struggles to expand your family can discourage even the most hopeful. As we approached the anniversary of our approval, with no obvious progress, I found myself wondering what was wrong with us, what was wrong with me, what did birth parents not see in us that they saw in others.
Amazing, then, as we were contemplating having to renew all of our paperwork for another year, to have a job offer fall into my husband’s lap that we just could not refuse. This was not out of thin air. We had been open to relocation for quite some time, and my husband had even submitted his name for consideration on a four year international assignment in Santiago, Chile…one that ultimately fell through. So my husband accepted this job offer, and we picked up and moved cross country so he could be a member of the start up team for a new office. Our adoption file was placed on hold. We settled in to life in the desert, sold our Tennessee home, and except for some truly precious friends we left behind, severed our ties to the Tennessee Valley.
It took me almost two years before I was able to tackle a home study again. It is an arduous process, packed with lots of paperwork, interviews, and extremely personal questions. It has to be that way…it should be that way…but it can feel really invasive. After having been through it once, after having second guessed virtually every answer, every disclosure, every decision as we filled out the application, I was momentarily paralyzed at having to do it again.
My husband told me that the first time around, he felt like he was the one running point, pushing me to get everything completed and submitted, and though he knew I wanted to do it, he felt a little like he was dragging me along, and he wasn’t going to do that again. If we were really going to do this, I had to run point this time. I had to take the lead in getting the paperwork finished, scheduling the interviews, prepping our 7yo son for his interview, getting our house prepared, and basically moving the process along. I think he wanted to make absolutely certain that I was in this 100%, and he was right to put the responsibility on me. I needed that to get me moving, and here we are now, having completed the process once again…waiting for a child (or two) to add to our family.
And this time, we are doing it right.
My husband and I have had a lot of conversations about our experience in Tennessee. He didn’t realize at the time how discouraged I was, in large part because I felt like the agency was not taking good care of us once our home study was complete. I had sensed that our social worker (also the head of the agency) did not seem to have an aura of joy about her job. She didn’t exhibit excitement about what she was doing. She didn’t seem energetic or filled with an eagerness to find a match for us. She didn’t seem excited to present us, and over the course of a year with them, our profile was viewed twice. After all the hours spent making it as good as we possibly could, making sure it accurately represented our family, making sure it was well put together and error free, it seemed to languish on the shelf most of the year. This is devastating to a family who has such high hopes that this (very expensive) process will culminate with a beautiful child to call our own.
He also didn’t realize that I had been feeling profound regret about some of the choices we made regarding the type of child we wished to have. I made these decisions against my personal convictions, and I knew when I did so that I would regret them. I hated myself for compromising what I believed was the right thing to do in the name of avoiding some really difficult conversations. I’m no stranger to conflict. I’ve dealt with it all of my life, but I have capitulated many times when I wished I had not (even though it was to keep – or make – peace), and here was yet another example of doing just that . Again.
Not this time.
There were many, many conversations with friends and family over the course of our first home study. We were grateful beyond words at the outpouring of support & love, at the willingness of those closest to us to provide references, and at their unabashed happiness for us as we pursued what was in our hearts. So I was completely taken aback when I was cautioned:
- to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a black child
- to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a mixed race child if one of the birth parents was black
- that adopting a black or mixed race child would be fraught with problems throughout our lives
- that black people value their culture highly, and that would be cause for conflict and frustration in our family
- that only white people adopt trans-racially and trans-culturally, because we don’t put as high a value on our own culture and traditions
- that adopting a black or mixed race child would cause the child to have problems being accepted in both the black & white communities
- that a black or mixed race child would have identity issues being raised in a white family
- that a black or mixed race child may not be accepted by their own families
- that people would talk about us having a black or mixed race child
- to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a child with any special needs
- that we would not know what we were getting into
- that we would likely encounter more difficulty than we anticipated
- that we needed to be very, very sure we wanted to take on those burdens
I was utterly unprepared with any answer to these cautions, especially the reservations voiced about race. It NEVER OCCURRED to me until that moment to exclude certain racial or ethnic backgrounds when indicating the children for whom we wanted to be considered. My husband and I had talked at length about what special needs and/or health problems we felt competent to handle, but the truth is, you never know how special needs and health issues will manifest themselves…until they do. Adoption is no different from biology in that regard, and the only difference is that in an adoption, you can withdraw. But if you have discussed it, and prayed about, and know that God has your back in all things…well…
We had also discussed all of the racial issues, and we had no racial concerns or exclusions…until some reservations were verbalized to us. And I did what I have done some many times throughout my life…I made the decision that would not ruffle feathers, and I nearly choked on it.
Not this time.
If you attended church when you were a child, or have attended regularly with your own children, you are probably familiar with this little song:
I was reminded of that song as we started our current home study, because “red or yellow, black or white,” all are precious in MY sight, too. I do not care what color my child is, what race my child is, what ethnicity my child is, or what culture my child is. I want my family to reflect the body of Christ, and that means actively seeking not to exclude certain of those whom God may entrust us to raise, but rather to be willing and open to whomever God brings into our family. I can’t do it any other way. I am compelled as we go on this journey to make decisions I believe are right in the eyes of God. I believe that includes making practical decisions regarding the health and safety of our biological son. I also believe it means cleaving to our convictions, and if it ruffles feathers…well, we are prepared for that.
I’ll leave you with one final thought. We had a discussion with our son a few months ago about what kind of child he might want for a brother or sister. After telling us he wanted a big brother, a little brother, a big sister, and a little sister, we had the following exchange:
Mom: What color brother or sister would you like? (I was teasing, because he’s as likely to say green or orange as any other color)
Dad: What about green?
Son: No Daddy!
Mom: So what color would you like?
Son: Like us. You know, human color.
Mom: Well, what if we get a brother or sister that is the color of D____? (a black/Hispanic kid at school).
Son: Mommy, D_____ is not a color, he’s a boy!!
What a perfect response from a child who sees people, not colors. May God continue to keep his heart that pure and unencumbered with prejudice.
Thank you for reading my heart. Please, pray for us as we pursue adoption once again. Your prayers are a life raft for us during this journey.