Adoption Is Delightful, Yet First Families Should Be Joyful
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Written by Karolina Dembinska-Lemus
Celebrities have brought a lot of attention to adoption lately. But there is nothing trendy about the fact that these children, like all adopted children, lose a part of their identity when they are adopted.
In the United States, the 2011 National Adoption Day falls on November 19th. It is traditionally held the Saturday prior to the American Thanksgiving holiday. Various groups plan celebrations of adoption and adoptive families, and courts across the country finalize the adoptions of children from foster care. It’s a good time for anyone involved with, or interested in, adoption to take time to reflect on what adoption means to them.
The reality of adoption is neither shameful nor trendy: adoption is built on loss. Adoption is the silver lining in a cloudy world. Adoption is making the best out of a situation that no one wants to find themselves in the first place.
In all cases, adoption is only good when compared to the alternative of remaining in neglectful, abusive, unstable, or temporary situations. A strong, loving, supportive family from the get-go should be the goal for every child. Adopting a child in need is indeed a “good thing,” but an even better thing is to prevent the need for a child to be removed from their first family in the first place.
No child wants to feel unwelcome by their parents. No child wants to lose the mother who birthed them, or the father who is supposed to be there for both mother and child. No child would pick wealthy, even famous, strangers over their own poor parents. Every child would prefer their parents had placed their children first, above their own addictions, selfish habits, or personal ambitions. The only reason children are adopted is because various circumstances in either or both first parents' lives at the time impede their ability to raise a child properly.
Children adopted internationally usually spend time in orphanages. In many cases, these children’s homes are understaffed and overcrowded. No amount of goodwill can compensate for the fact that there just aren’t enough “aunties” to go around for any sort of one-on-one attention with the children. Often, only their basic needs are met. They already suffered neglect or abuse before arriving in the orphanage. In some countries, simple abject poverty forces parents to bring them there just so that they could eat. Others lost their parents to disease, landing them there. And when they are adopted, many also become immigrants, losing their native culture and language on top of the usual adoption losses that children experience.
Children adopted from foster care frequently were first moved around from foster home to foster home before finally finding a home where they could stay and settle in. Before that, they were removed from their first parents due to neglect or abuse. Many children get separated from their siblings as well, and some lose touch with each other when this happens. Some older children don’t want to be adopted, yet are placed in an adoptive home nonetheless. Most don’t understand why they must be separated from their parents, siblings, or other relatives. Being adopted is often little more than a consolation prize for these children.
Even children adopted domestically as a newborn suffer loss. They are usually taken home from the hospital by their adoptive parents, being separated from the only mother they’ve known for 9 months, and sometimes not even given a chance to be nursed or even held by her.
In the three-plus years my husband and I have tried to adopt, I have come across people from various levels and angles of involvement with adoption, and with various takes on adoption.
I met young ladies who had no business raising a family, and some who moved mountains to do whatever was the best thing for their child. I met well-meaning but intrusive relatives who tried to pressure young pregnant women into placing their children in adoptive homes, and I saw this backfire firsthand.
I met overextended social workers and other social services employees and volunteers. Perhaps they started out believing that they were truly looking out for the best interest of the child in their line of work, but at some point, they lost sight of common sense and the human factor.
I met fellow hopeful adoptive parents who were desperate for a child, yet still insisted on sometimes rather strict criteria of a child they’d be willing to adopt. Meanwhile, others would have adopted any child placed in their arms, and yet disappointment came over and over again.
I met adoptive families who excitedly wanted to share with me the joys and struggles of having adopted a child, or having been adopted.
And I met random people who ran the gamut of insightfulness and ignorance on the subject of adoption. Some people shared their own struggles to have a child. Others mentioned having a relative or friend who had been adopted, or who adopted a child. And then there were those who offered their own child for adoption, completely in jest, as if it weren’t a serious subject matter deserving of some thought.
So as we celebrate National Adoption Day this year, I hope that we do so by taking a look around at the families that we know, starting with our own, and considering what we can do to help the children we know have the loving upbringing they all deserve, by helping their parents, regardless of how they came to be parents, raise their children effectively. For more information on National Adoption Day, go to: http://www.nationaladoptionday.org/