So, I'm sure you have heard the latest shocking story to rock the adoption world. This couple walked away from their 9-year-old child, whom they had adopted from foster care when he was an infant. They claim he had threatened them and their other children with a knife. They are being indicted on charges relating to the abandonment of the child.
This story, following on the heels of the Reuter's series that investigated the "re-homing" of adopted children, has sent shockwaves through the adoption community, dealing harsh blows to both domestic and international adoption programs.
I remember our early days of family-hood. The days when Little Man had
just come home and I was scared to death and worried that I didn't have
the tools I needed to care for this hurting, grieving child.
There's been plenty of tough times since then. Yes, sometimes parenting feels like too much. More than we can handle. It's hard, no doubt about it.
But these stories...I wonder, were these parents ill-equipped? Poorly informed? What could have been done to prevent the dissolution of their families?
We all know bio families gone wrong. Where the parents kick the kids out or the children run away, are taken away, or placed in foster care. Unfortunately those stories are pretty common and hardly shocking anymore. We might view the parents with disdain, but they aren't typically the subject of the contempt and rage that people are aiming at the adoptive parents who have stopped parenting.
In the media and in the public, being a bad adoptive parent is a much more egregious act than just being a bad parent. Adoptive families are
held to a different standard---and rightly so. We made intentional
choices to care for these children (not that bio families don't also do
this). But our children come to us with deep hurts. We know before they arrived how vital it
was (and likely difficult as well) that we give them a safe forever
home. That we love them despite the hurts that sometimes make loving
them difficult. That we never give up.
We chose them. They didn't choose us. And so, it's our obligation to keep that commitment. It's absolutely imperative that we do.
So what happened
to the families that chose disruption? That chose to meet in a parking
lot and let strangers take their children? That dropped their child off, saying they were finished? Were these just flawed
parents from the get-go? Were they inherently not able to parent? And if
that's true, how in the world did they get through the adoption system?
I'm not judging here. Just really trying to understand what happened.
Why should we (as adoptive families) care about these situations? While these type of stories represent the outliers in our community---the vast majority of adoptive families do not look like this---we still must acknowledge that this happens and that there will be long-lasting effects on all adoptive families when adoptions fail.
Due to recent cases Americans are no longer able to adopt from Russia. The international anti-adoption communities are using the "re-homing" story as yet another reason against international adoption and many countries are looking at their policies when dealing with American adoptions.
In addition, parents who have abandoned their children are being charged criminally (rightly so) and in turn, this could make some people fearful of parenting a foster child. No one goes into thinking that it won't work. But if you think there's even a chance that you could be criminally charged...that might give people pause. (Then again, perhaps if you are slowed down from adopting because you fear being charged criminally, you might not be a fit adoptive parent.)
In our day-to-day lives, news reports like this contribute to the "othering" of adoptive families---the belief that that we fall
outside the norm. The notion that "you can't possibly love adoptive
children as your biological children" is supported, because if adoptive
families loved the children as "their own" they wouldn't be surfing the
web looking for someone to hand their kids off to.
And the misconception that adoptive children are more likely to be problematic, unable to accept love, difficult to manage, etc., is supported by the reasons that the parents gave for giving up their children.
These stories set adoptive families outside the norm. They are one more thing that stick in the back of people's minds. One more way they classify us.
Lastly, when stories like these come up in the news, we need to talk with our kids about them. Even a whisper of a child being abandoned by their parents could terrify an adopted child, fearing that they too could be abandoned not
once, but twice. We need to be open with our children that they are safe and secure.
Here's the reporter in me---don't hate the messenger. The Reuters investigation was important. For all the painful after-effects of the story, it's vital that light is shined on this horrible practice. No matter the parents' rationale, there is never an excuse for abandoning a child like this.
parents, don't turn your back on this. It's easy to say "I'd never do
that" and walk away. But if we do, we give way to the anti-international
adoption groups who will hold this up as yet another reason that
international programs should be closed.
And mostly, we turn our back on kids who need help.
So don't shrink away from this. Because it hurts the overall view of adoption when the thriving stay silent in fear of being grouped with those that are failing.
up, I say. Let the voices of the masses of successful adoptive families ring out. Let those who are committed to giving children a safe place to grow, and to help them work through the myriad of emotions and pain related to adoption. Heck, related to life in general.
For those of us that are
dedicated to serving our kids and going to the mat for them---speak out. For us
adopted parents who see "adopted" not as a permanent adjective for our
children, but just the way that we came together as a family---speak out.
our voices be the loudest in the uproar that follows these stories. We need to be the face of adoption, not those that are failing. We shouldn't try to drown out these type of stories, but to demand solutions to these unacceptable actions.