Tuesday, September 18, 2012

a few steps closer.

And there you have it.

As with so much in the process of adoption...nothing happens, and then everything happens.  It's almost predictable in its unpredictability.

I was on a plane, at about 35,000 feet, flying home from St. Louis this weekend.  I don't normally bother, but this time I paid my $8 for internet service and decided to catch up on a little bit of life.  Naturally, that included my email.  Jon had been home with our daughter, but it was Sunday and that's football day.  Jon hadn't checked his email, especially not his work email.

When I audibly gasped and said, "Oh my GOD!", my seatmates looked at me oddly and asked if I was okay. 

I was very okay.  The email I was reacting to was one with the subject:  You Got It!

We got our signature on Friday of this past week from the minister on our Article 5 paperwork.  From there, these documents have to be submitted to the Bulgarian court system.  This happened on Monday in Bulgaria.  Now we want for the judges to return to full time service so that a court date can be obtained and our case can be heard before the Bulgarian court.  Assuming there are not any legal issues, our future son will be made legally ours.  After a fourteen day waiting period, the decision of the court will become effective and we will be cleared to go and get him.

The hope is that we will have a court date in 2-3 weeks, but this is Bulgaria and so while I pray for this, I am not holding my breath.  (Okay. Maybe a little breath holding, but I'll try to be patient).

Beyond that, within a few weeks we should be cleared to go and get him.  Target date is still looking like late October/early November. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

let's talk India.

India, as many know, has an adoption program that is difficult to sometimes manage.  Waits are long, bureaucratic red tape is enormous, and referrals take significant time.  There has been corruption in India adoption programs, as is true in many countries.  India recently changed the rules for submitted dossiers.  While it is party to the Hague convention, Hague doesn't provide the robust child protections that some feel it should.

But back up! you're saying as you read this.  You used the "C" word.

I did.  It's corruption.  And it sometimes happens. 

Because the process, while relatively stable in some respects, has had issues related to corruption and other concerns, adoption-haters (and that's what they are) would like to (not so) kindly point out that adoption should be outlawed in that country.  If you press hard enough and ask what should be done to assist the children of India, you'll hear some convoluted, pie-in-the-sky, utopian image of how money will solve the problems in India.  Half (yes you read that correctly) of the children in India suffer with malnourishment (Source:  Bloomberg Business Week, September 10, 2012). 

Well...since US dollars aren't terribly tasty, I'm sure the answer those folks would give you is that we ought to send them food and not "take" their children. 

Splendid idea!  Who's with me?  Let's reach out to the adoption agencies and all potential adoptive parents and immediately ask them to cease their adoption procedures and instead, we're going to invest in feeding these 900 MILLION Indian citizens who live on less than the government's recommended daily allowance of food.  I'll bet we could be so persuasive, nearly every potential adoptive parent would agree.


Wha...??? Am I reading this correctly?

"In India's most populous state, about $14.5 BILLION in food for the poor has vanished in the past ten years due to corruption."

I thought corruption only happened in the adoption process. Is Bloomberg Business Week really Adoptive Families Magazine in disguise or something?

"In Satnapur, the children playing in the street have prominent ribs.  The village has no electricity, and the ration shop has been closed for months, residents say. Only about half of the village households that qualify for subsidized rice, wheat, sugar, and kerosene receive any.  'This is the most mean-spirited, ruthlessly executed corruption...' says Naresh Saxena who [is a] commissioner to the nation's Supreme Court..."  (Bloomberg Business Week)

This is one example of many you will find with a simple google search.  You can read this article for yourself, and read the accounts of brazen government officials who perpetrated this fraud on their people while pocketing massive profits for years.  Only because of one conscious-filled whistleblower was it ever known.  And even he admits in the article, "I never for one moment felt scared that I would get caught."  Such enforcement!  When the government itself is in involved in this level of corruption at the expense of the poor, this fellow is right.  Who's going to catch you?

I know you are probably very confused right now. Maybe you have been reading the adoption hate speech on the internet and you don't get it.  You've seen for yourself that these folks don't bother to accurately portray some of the adoption process.  You've seen how they focus on a few bad stories and ignore the hundreds that fly in the face of their case.  And you've rarely seen a solution offered in those blogs, except to bash people who try to adopt for fundraising or giving a shit about orphans.

Maybe occasionally, you've seen someone who is actually concerned about adoption fraud and has some amount of care for orphaned children suggest that programs ought to be targeted in these children's countries of origin to "prevent" (or eliminate the need for) adoption.  You never hear a timeline or a real plan to make this happen, but some of these folks really try to at least suggest SOMETHING that will help children...Someday.  Certainly not now, of course. 

Great idea.  For the past DECADE (and probably longer) NGOs and charitable organizations and other countries have sent India food aid, and guess where it's gone?  To the pockets of politicians and corrupt individuals.  Do you think the scheme was oh-so-complicated?  No.  According to the article, it was quite simple.  Local officials would set up shell (dummy) companies and purchase the food from the government at the low, subsidized price.  They would then turn around and sell this highly discounted food to private companies for a hefty profit, pocket the profit, and do it all over again.  This occurred, at its height, in nearly 30 of the 71 districts in India. You want to talk about widespread corruption?  That meets the definition. This easily-perpetrated scam lined the pockets of several officials to the tune of $20 MILLION over an 18 month period.  Not sure what your paycheck looks like, but mine's slightly lower than that.  Apparently, food theft is incredibly lucrative.

So...while children walk the streets with their ribs protruding, fat corrupt bureaucrats sell off the discounted food so that Indian citizens who walk into their local Fair Price Shop with their ration card are told to buzz off. 

Something's wrong here.

What's the answer?

Well, a start to an answer is that hopefully, this practice is going to stop.  The whistleblower has provided enough evidence to someday convict all of those responsible.  We pray that new corrupt individuals do not step in so that the food, which is desperately needed, will reach those it is meant to help. 

But what about NOW?  What about TODAY?  What about ten years ago?  What was the answer then?

We did what those who hate adoption want.  We sent money.  We tried to support the Indian people...and it wasn't working.  It wasn't working because the system designed to support them was flawed, broken, and corrupt.  Just as you can't resurrect a car with a broken engine by replacing the brake pads, so too can you not try to effectuate change in child welfare in a country where the politicians are stealing their food for a profit.  It won't work well.  Period.  Families should be able to feed their children, but all the good ideas and high hopes won't work if that family arrives at the Fair Price Store only to be told there is nothing there for them to buy.

Their children starve.  Half of them are starving.  Many of them are dying. Go look up the infant mortality rate in India.  It's okay, I'll wait.


What's the point?

Get educated.  Understand the forces at work.  When you claim adoption isn't an answer, look to the mechanisms in place in the child's country of origin.  Are they working?  Invariably, they are not, which is why there are children available for adoption in the first place.  And even if one could argue that there is equal corruption in Indian adoption as there is through the abuses of their food program (and there isn't), one fact remains clear:  All starving children suffer.  There are no happy starving children, who skip along the country roads with their protruding knees, thrilled with their existence. "Hooray!  Hooray!  I didn't eat today!"

But there are adopted children who are happy, well fed, and generally content. We can wait on whistleblowers to stop corruption in a country that refuses to feed its own poor people, or we can work to effectuate change in that country while attempting to protect and improve the conditions for the children of India - and if that means adoption as part of a bigger plan to make a country like India self-sufficient, then (when executed as responsibly as possible) it is an important tool. 

"None of these agencies [in India] have the manpower, the will power, or even the political support needed to investigate a theft of this size, this nature, and this breadth."

Absorb that.  Understand it.  This is what happens in a child's country of origin.  This is the system they live in - the broken, flawed, incapable systems.  It is these systems that are not equipped to care for the kids.  Money and prayers and lots of good wishes and fist-flinging won't change that.  Perhaps in time, things will be changed.  Until then, children suffer under their native skies with empty bellies.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


The cultural differences in adoption are astounding, but they are hard to process.  It is hard to understand and appreciate how differently ethnic groups and even some orphaned children are viewed in their countries of origin.  This is the key piece that adoption haters miss. When these folks talk about dropping tons of money (from where?) on these problems of poverty, neglect, and maltreatment, the cultural piece is missing.  Those who hate adoption assume that most every parent who relinquishes their child to an orphanage is honestly interested in parenting.  They assume that caregivers will give at least a minimum of acceptable care to all children if given the right resources.  Money and fancy ad campaigns will be all we need to solve the orphan crisis and remove the "criminality" of adoption from these "child hungry" adoptive parents.

I'd like to know how that view helps THIS child.

Here is a child, just brought home...and (surprisingly!) NOT from The Bad Place and not from Bulgaria.  But where he was - for him at least - was very bad.  Bruises on most of his body (both old and new) scrapes and healing fractures from old breaks, malnourishment, and so on.  This boy was obviously beaten and injured many times.  His gastrointestinal issues are a direct result of his treatment.  He cowers where adults approach him now. He is afraid.

Some of the children in this group went to summer camp. Ahhhh. Summer camp.  Did you go to summer camp?  Maybe you remember lazy nature walks, fishing in the camp lake, eating s'mores with the campers beside a roaring campfire?  And hey, maybe you had a terrible experience at camp, but chances are, you didn't have to go back if the activities didn't appeal to you.

Ah, yes.  Summer camp.  Lovely summer camp.

Were you beaten and abused at summer camp? Were you taken to a concrete shell of a place - not to learn to enjoy the outdoors or to acquire a skill - but to be shut away all summer long so your caregivers could get vacations?  Were you taken care of at camp?  Were you starved and left to wander without supervison?  And if you were, were people prosecuted as a result? 

"Orphan Summer Camp" is not always the same as our idea of summer camp.

In Bulgaria, the pervasive view of so many is a predisposition of discrimination against the Roma.  It is historic and likely on par with the way the United States treated African Americans in the 19th and much of the 20th century.  It is legendarily ingrained into the culture that is Bulgaria. See HERE for just one of several examples.  My good and wonderful facilitator in Bulgaria even succumbed to this sort of discrimination when she told us that "true 'Bulgarians' are being reverse-discriminated against, because Roma refuse to send their children to school and live off government handouts."  The facts, however, tell a different story; a story where Roma children are routinely denied the opportunity of education.  This has been a problem so great, the European Union has consistently asked Bulgaria to address it.  Yes, it is 'that' bad.

Money and resources do not fix discrimination.  Our own country's history strongly supports that fact.  It wasn't money and parenting classes and lots of pie-in-the-sky  utopian dreams without substance aimed at ending discriminiation and lack of opportunity (which still exist in many forms today, so it's not like our country has 'nailed' it). It was a cultural shift, pressed forward by the pioneers of the Civil Rights movement, that ultimately shifted the tide.  It was legislation that began to be enforced that changed the fortunes of the marginalized. 

This is not a question of supplanting one culture for another in a ethnocentric perspective.  This is not American parents swooping in to "save" children from a culture "less superior" to that of the United States.  Are countries like Bulgaria and Ukraine and Russia as "advanced" as nations like the US and Canada?  No, certainly not.  Does that make them inherently "bad"?  No.  It's not that.  This is not a case of circumstances that prompted legislation like the Indian Child Welfare Act that was needed and necessary long before the time it was actually installed. 

When the culture a child resides in fails to adequately care for them; when the culture actively discriminates against them to the point where the child is being harmed and the government is too weak or too incapable to address  Money and lots of hopeful good wishes and all kinds of programs won't adequately address the problem, and certainly not in time for many children.  It takes decades for a population to begin to value what it deems valueless.  The children caught in that transition - who are they?  Collateral damage?  Unfortunate victims who get the "privilege" of remaining on their native soil while they suffer?  Can those who despise adoption actually accept those terms for the sake of eliminating some of the corruption in the system (and yes.  Corruption exists.  We 'get' that too.) 

Even if 50% of all foreign adoptions were corrupt (and they aren't) but even if they were, what do we say to the other 50%?  "Sorry, so's a check that I sure hope reaches you...good luck going to school if you're allowed to go...good luck not being abused and beaten with no effective government to prosecute those who have hurt you...good luck to your future in your native land.  Enjoy it!  Hope change comes soon.  Love, Industrialized World Who Would Much Rather Ignore You Than Actually Participate."

Adoption for many is not the answer.  It is, however, an answer.  It is a solution that is hopefully not needed if our world improves.  I like to look at Poland as a great example, or South Korea.  These countries at one time sent hundreds (in South Korea's case, thousands) of children out of their countries in international adoption.  These countries are now some of the lowest 'sending' countries out there, because internally, their countries have improved to the point where international adoption is not 'necessary'.  Culturally, things have improved; economically, things have advanced dramatically, and fundamentally, much of the country can handle their child welfare needs without relying on international adoption to a large extent. 

Other countries are not so fortunate.  At least, not yet.

Please pray for those children, and search your heart on how you can help them.  Ignoring them is criminal.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

on hosting.

Every time I write an entry that isn't sun-shiney, I lose a follower.

It's kind of funny, but I am okay with that.

I think when you become an adoptive parent, you may naturally examine the culture of adoption.  I know I have.  While I have been angered, upset, and downright hurt at times, I have also been awed, inspired, and amazed at others.  I've learned a great deal about our future son's birth country and also about the adoption process.  I've learned things I wish I hadn't about some people at agencies, and the MOJ, and all of it.  It's an interesting subculture.

One area of adoption that our family is not participating in, but that is an element of adoption and orphan care is hosting.  This is when a family, through the help of an agency, brings an older child into their home for a period of time (seems to be generally during holiday periods or school breaks) to live with them.  In most cases, families are asked to be "adoption minded" though they are not required to adopt the child they are "hosting".  In some cases, it seems children who are brought on these visits are not available for adoption, so that ends the adoption discussion.  In most every case, hosting parents are discouraged from discussing adoption with the child, and those hosting parents who are not interested or not able to adopt are encouraged to "advocate" for the child they are (or have) hosted.

I must admit that I am very mixed on this practice of hosting, and I mean that quite sincerely.  I truly can see both sides of the argument and I cannot decide where I stand on the issue.

Let's take a mythical, 10 year old boy from Russia who is going to be hosted.

I believe all of these statements to be true:

1.  Older children are simply not chosen for adoption for a long list of reasons, so allowing potential parents to "see" these children - interact with them, learn about them, etc - will invariably lead to a higher probability that the child will find a family.  Finding a family is not a bad thing.  And anyone who argues that a child who is seen has the same chance of finding that family as a hidden child is nuts.  I get that.

2.  Even if the child is not adopted, it must be a great sort of adventure to go on a long airplane ride and see another country and culture for a time.  How many children can say they  have traveled overseas?  That has to be at least interesting (if not FUN) for a child.

3.  If children are not told the purpose of the trip, isn't it just a good experience for them? Probably, on some level, yes.


Should we really, as potential adoptive parents "try before we buy"?  Is that right?  After all, these are children, not cars.  I know many people who begin the adoption process feel from the moment they see the photograph or read the referral that this child is theirs, regardless of circumstance.

Do the children really "not know" what the purpose of the trip is?  Will these children feel "unchosen"? 

Is it a "tease" to bring a child into a home - something they may never have seen - with modern conveniences that may not be familar to the child (video games, television on demand, large, overstuffed shopping malls, snacks on a whim?) and then send them away?

Does this in any way "harm" these hosted children psychologically?  I know that is not the intention, but is it an inadvertent result?

I can't answer those questions.  I just don't know.  But I wonder about it; consider it.  Does the potential good of hosting outweigh the potential "bad"?  Is that the right standard to use?

Don't know.

Not sure.

Do you know why I have time to consider stuff like this?


We are waiting for one signature.  Just one.  We've been waiting one month (tomorrow) for just a signature that will send our paperwork to court for the last set of steps before our future son is OUR son.  We are praying it is soon.

on adoption and loss.

It is so natural, as families progress toward a much-wanted child, to become attached to the child who is very much theirs in their hearts.

Although we are not yet our future son's parents, we feel extremely connected to him and cannot wait to welcome him into our family.  We understand that there are things that could go wrong.  Though unlikely, he could become very sick and die, there could be problems with his paperwork that leave us unable to adopt him, or who knows what else.  Until the moment he is legally "ours", we will hope and wait and pray that things go smoothly and that he is soon a true member of our family.

Sometimes, however, things do go wrong.

Children die while parents are pursuing their adoption.  Sometimes, a much-wanted child is discovered to have needs that are incompatible with the family's resources and they must walk away.  At other times, families travel to their future child's country of origin, only to realize that the child (for whatever reason) will not fit into their family.

It is heartbreaking, I'm sure, when this happens.  I have never personally experienced this, so I can only assume that it is incredibly difficult.  I know that, should something happen to our future son in Bulgaria, we will feel as if we lost a member of our family and be sad.  We will heal, of course, but we will likely never fully forget that little boy.

However, throughout the Blogosphere, I have read family accounts of the loss they feel in adoption...and I often hear it compared to the loss (the death of) a child.

Although I realize that these families are feeling tremendous grief as they unburden their souls, I take strong issue with that comparison.  Though I haven't experienced a loss in adoption, I have very much experienced the loss of a child...and while I deeply sympathize with families who have "lost" a child they had hoped would be theirs through the adoption process, it is simply not the same as the death of a child.

It is not the same as carrying a tiny, so-hoped-for life in your body for twenty one weeks...and meeting your twin boys far too soon in a hospital, holding their little bodies as they slowly die in your arms.


When, as a father, you gaze upon your beautiful second born son, who even in his tiny form carries the distinctive trait of your hands and your wife's chin...and, as his father, know that you can do nothing but hold him until he is gone...yes, this is what the death of a child is like.
When you are struggling to hold back tears as you take your first (and only) "family" photograph, knowing at that moment that your dreams are forever shattered and your life is forever changed; that you will include these precious lives in every obituary ("preceded in death by....") and will memorialize your children in every family tree, then you know the death of a child.
When you are able - not to advocate for your failed adoption (to find another family for the child that is not meant to be yours) - but can sit, feeling lifeless, in front of a tombstone, knowing that you will never see your children again in this world...that there is no "family" to "find" them...then you know the death of a child.
When your only connection to your children as their father is to stand stoically in front of their final resting place, knowing that the hopes and dreams you had for your sons on this earth are over; as you "grieve forward" for everything you will never know...when all you can do is hold your wife's hand over the casket that contains the remains of your soul...then you know the pain of the death of a child.
Losing a child by way of failed adoption is a hard thing.  Of course it is.  That pain is unique and important and should be acknowledged.  It is not a simple thing to just "move on" and forget. 
But the pain of burying two of your children...children who are gone forever, who remain a permanent and forever piece of your family...children whose faces you will never see again...children whose likes, dislikes...whose futures will never be known...
No.  This is not the same.
These are my sons, Jacob Anthony & Zachary Ethan.
These were our sons, in whom we were most pleased.  We prayed daily for their safe arrival after beating the infertility odds.  They were our firstborn children, and they died when I inexplicably went into preterm labor that couldn't be stopped.  They weighed 14 and 15 ounces.  They were 10 1/2 and 11 inches long.  They were born at 1:21 PM and 2:35 PM on March 14th, 2008. These statistics - the very little I can tell you about them - are emblazoned on my heart and I can recite them as quickly and as easily as I can my own phone number. They are Chelsea's older brothers, and she can tell you that they "live in Heaven".  I will never know if they would have liked Thomas the Tank Engine or Elmo or Diego cartoons.  I will never know what their futures would have been...because their futures ended after just two hours of life. 
There are thousands - literally thousands - of stories like my own, and stories quite different.  Young children who die of cancer or car accidents.  Little ones who grace their parent's lives for just a while and then are gone.  This is what the death of a child is like.  No matter the pain caused in adoption, whether it is a loss of a potential child or a disruption, it is not the same as the loss of a child.  That loss is unique in its own right, and neither should be compared, because there is no comparison.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'a plan to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future."  (Jeremiah 29:11)
Through all, God was still good, even if I didn't think He was for a period of time.
(Our daughter, Chelsea Hope...born a year and two months after her brother's passed away...including a ten-day stint in the NICU)
Chelsea now, on her third birthday:

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts"  (Isaiah 55:9)
I don't know why my children died.  I don't know....and I must accept that I will never know.
Something I do know is that, had my beautiful twins lived, we would have likely had our little Chelsea and we never would have adopted.  Three children would have been enough for me. 
Ask me which I would rather have, and I cannot answer you.  I can only say this:
"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."  (Romans 8:28)
"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten, the great locust and the young locust, the other locust and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you."  (Joel 2:25)
There is no substitute for my "missing" sons.  EVER.  They can not be replaced by having more children or other children or adopting a hundred children.  Anyone who thinks otherwise has not lost a child.  There is no replacement.
But there is this.
Please.  Grieve the sadness of the child you lost in adoption.  It is okay.  But, please.  Never compare it to the death of a child.
"For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted the petition that I asked of Him.  Therefore, I have lent him to the Lord.  As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord."  (1 Samuel 1:27-28)



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What about you?

There are people affiliated with adoption that stand in high places and speak from lofty mountaintops.

There are people who embrace adoption and are tireless advocates for orphaned children who are looked upon and admired.  Even when they shun admiration, they are still admired and thought of as the "voices" for so much about adoption.

Some of them have adopted many children, and that is what makes them "experts".  Some of them have adopted very disabled children, and they are "experts" too.  These people are the ones others email or phone when they are unsure of how to proceed. They are the people whose opinions about agencies, policies, and procedures are held to a standard not unlike the red words in the Bible. 

Many of these same people are those who have connections they do not reveal and affiliations that epitomize "conflict of interest". But this is never shared, because these are Godly people who only care about orphans.

Some of these people attack adopting families; tear them down or convince them to act (or not) based on interests that are only self-serving.  They cloak these pronouncements in scripture and throw the weigh of their status behind it. 

This happens....and I did not think that it did.  I was naive when I began this process. My husband and I were both very naive.  Our eyes are opened, even as I wish I could somehow shut them. What I want to believe, and what the reality truly is, is incongruent and distressing. Yet, here we are, nearing the end of our adoption process...and our family is no closer to entering the "inner sanctum" that is these groups as we were before we ever said "yes" to our beautiful Ian (Joshua).

We must accept that, because we must know that what we are doing is right and correct for our family and that we are trying to do God-honoring work.  Those who claim to speak for many do not speak for us. We won't be invited to the picnics and we won't be sharing secret emails with those people. We know this, but we also know that adoption - for our family - was not a popularity contest.  It wasn't a way for our family to become more known.  We have a few dozen followers to our blog and we are grateful and happy for every single one of them.  We have been blessed beyond measure by strangers - strangers without big, important "Adoption-world" names and strangers who pray for us daily.  We are willing to stand on the fringes of those groups, because the price of admission to be included as one of Those Important People is simply too high for our family.  We know that "bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Corinthians 15:33) and so we will continue our prayers to look inward instead of outward, to project the voice of tolerance and love instead of being prideful know-it-alls.

I do not claim to have every answer simply because I'm adopting.  What I ask of anyone who happens upon this little blog is this:  Do not listen to the loudest or most important voices.  Do not allow yourself to be corrupted, even if it is by doing good work.  Do not fall for the shorthand of getting advice from someone you trust.  Be critical.  Remain true to what your values are.  Don't assume that your agency, your social worker, your child, or even the country you choose is any worse (or better) because someone with a loud voice and many (hidden) connections tells you.  It is not up to anyone but you.  Your choices are yours.  You must exercise them with full knowledge.  Don't believe the definition of "some word" is something - because some Word Smith tells you it is so. Look it up for yourself and know it.

If you do this, then the voices that try to permeate the sacred world of international adoption will not infiltrate your decisions, and you will rest knowing that God, who knows all things and has ordained all things, is your final answer.