I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I just cannot help myself, and I read comments. In this case, it was some of the comments attached to the article I posted about asking people to sign the petition to investigate the burdensome regulation being required for international adoption.
[Go to this article if you haven't signed the petition yet: You Can Help Save International Adoptions]
On the whole, there are three varieties... comments saying someone signed the petition, comments from those who are opposed to adoption of any variety, and a large number of people asking some variation of the question used in the title. I realize that in all the writing I've done about adoption, I have never addressed this particular issue. Some of you may very well be wondering why a family would choose international adoption. While I cannot speak for everyone, I can share some of my thoughts.
The first thing to understand is that the US foster care system is not an adoption program, it is a family reunification program. The first goal for a child entering the foster care system is to be returned to their family of origin. Of course, we all know that this doesn't always happen, that parental rights are terminated, and adoptions happen. People who begin fostering with the intention to adopt know that it can be a long, painful, and unpredictable process. Don't get me wrong. I think it is very important that children whose parents have had their rights terminated find a new family. Very important. But not every family looking to adopt feels capable of going this route.
Over 400,000 children, on average are in the foster care system, but 115,000 are legally available for adoption, and over half of those children are over 6 years of age and have spent years in the foster care system. This is not the demographic that most first time adopters are looking for.
That sounds pretty bad, huh? But I completely understand it. The idea of adoption can be kind of scary; there are a lot of unknowns. This is particularly true if it is your first time adopting. Take us for instance. We wanted to add to our family, but a child so much older than our youngest didn't seem right. A child who had been shuffled around the system or who had significant special needs also felt a wee bit too scary. We are no the only ones to feel this way, and it is actually pretty wise. Hurt children take some special parenting, it is a steep learning curve.
Then there is whole kettle of fish regarding family size limits. At one point, we actually qualified for domestic adoption. That was when we hadn't adopted yet, and felt so unsure of ourselves. Once we had adopted, begun climbing that steep learning curve, and felt a bit more confident, we had too many children. I know I've harped on this before, but IL DCFS would rather a child languish in the foster care system without permanency than allow a large family, in this case a family with 6 or more children, adopt. If the rules say you can't, it's hard to get around that.
We also had experienced raising babies. There are many couples out there who are waiting and waiting to be matched with with an infant, and we didn't want to take that chance away from another couple.
So what are some reasons for international adoption? Children in orphanages usually have little to no access to specialized health care. Children in orphanages do not always have access to education. Children in orphanages who age out may do fine on their own, but they are also extremely at risk for trafficking, suicide, and drug use.
By asking the question, "Why didn't you adopt one of our children?" there is an assumption that some children are more deserving than others. This is not the case. Each child is valuable. Every child deserves a family. It is not an either or question. A choice of one type of adoption does not imply a disregard for the other type. I know plenty of families who have done both.
Children deserve families. Anyone tempted to kvetch about where a child came from should stop for a moment and take a good long look at what they are doing about family-less children.