January 30, 2013

"Buy American"

I've taken procrastination to new heights, my friends.  But I'm going to try and pass it off as slow and deliberate thinking.   :-)

Since about 6 weeks ago, when buzz began about the Russian adoption ban (I'll re-phrase that as "this Russian adoption ban...", optimistically), and certainly since December 28 when Putin signed it into law, I've had all sorts of thoughts, questions, and emotions related to adoption in general, Russia in particular, birth parents, kids...yadda yadda....

For now, here's what I want to address.  "Why adopt from Russia when there are so many kids who need homes right here?"

That's the question that, in one form or another, keeps popping up on all the comment sections of news stories, and from families, friends and even strangers to Russian adoptive parents.  Often it appears as a judgment, and it's the one that most gets under many adoptive parents' skin.  The ubiquitous blog trolls who post anonymously from under the internet bridges love it.  (See post title - a popular "clever" comment).  But it's also a very fair question, for those who are legitimately curious.

No child care system is perfect for the kids, and certainly no one system is the best for everyone looking to adopt.  As they should be, the systems are designed for the child.  There are many aspects of the American system that I wouldn't necessarily call 'flaws' - they simply didn't work for me as an prospective adoptive parent.

My story?  I wanted a baby; to be a mom. Just like most women do. I planned to adopt from here in the good ol' US of A and, in fact, I had no clue why so many people set off for these obscure, faraway lands when we have plenty of kids who need homes right here.

A few things I discovered along the way: Going 'thru the system' generally means foster-to-adopt.  I have tremendous admiration for the parents and foster parents who go this route, because it generally means welcoming a child who's already been put thru the wringer into your home and into your heart, giving your utmost to someone who may or may not be receptive to it, and at the same time having to manage your own attachment, as these kids may very well stay in the system, be reunited with their birth families, or be adopted out to other parents after a certain amount of time.  I won't pretend to be especially familiar with how this system works - feel free to step up if you are - but I do know that even with all these challenges, there are painfully long waiting lists of prospective parents looking to adopt thru foster care, and single wannabee-moms don't exactly get priority.

The other main route domestic adoptive parents take, and the one I was most likely to go (popularly featured in "Friends" and the dark comedy "Juno"), was "independent".  That's where, thru various means, contact is made with a birth mother while she's expecting, and she can select who she'd like her baby's adoptive parents to be.  Challenges?  First, you need to create a heckuva marketing campaign (which seems distasteful enough in this context), as there are usually a lot of applicants trying to sway the birth mom to choose them.  Second, while most birth mothers are going thru an unimaginably painful time and legitimately looking for the best home for their baby, I also met several prospective parents who'd been scammed by mothers who promised she'd chosen them as her baby's new parents, but in reality simply wanted someone to pick up the tab for her rent and medical bills, without any intention of actually giving up the baby.  Some have done it to more than one set of eager, unsuspecting parents simultaneously.  Legally, there's no recourse.  The law - as of course it should - protects a woman's right to keep her baby.  Thus, she can legitimately (or theatrically) change her mind about keeping it up to and beyond the birth, leaving the prospective parents heartbroken AND out a good chunk of money.  I don't disagree with the law, but I was sure beginning to question whether this was right for me.  Additionally, a domestic adoption isn't final until several months after taking custody, bonding with your new baby, nurturing his/her development and adjusting to your new life together.  And, as we've all seen, it may still be challenged by a birth mother, or any original family member, long after that.  Again, I don't know that I disagree with this - I imagine it would depend greatly on the specific case - but whether or not I do doesn't matter.  What I did know was I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of it.

The key thing to realize is that while yes, there are certainly plenty of kids here who need good, stable homes, it's not due to any lack of prospective adoptive parents.  Quite the opposite, there are many prospective parents - who may or may not ever be chosen -  actually competing for available children here.  

Murmansk Specialized Baby Home
Which brings us to the next point.  Children are children, and there are kids EVERYWHERE who need good, loving homes. Regarding Russia, the number of kids languishing in orphanages far exceeds the number of parents looking to foster or adopt them. In fact, as of Russia's policy before the ban, kids were not made available for international adoption until they'd been listed on the domestic registry for at least 8 months, and offered to and declined by a certain number of Russian families. 

 The Monkey and I both celebrate how ridiculously lucky we are to have found each other, and as a wise still-six-year-old, the Monkey tells me that the adoption ban is unfair to the babies.  When I first told her it was a possibility, she thought for a while, then asked if we could go back to the fountains near the Rockefeller Center Tree because she wanted "to make one more wish."   

It's impossible to spend any amount of time visiting an orphanage in Russia - or likely anywhere else - and not think of the kids left behind.  Some mornings when I drop the Monkey off at school I look at the faces of the kids bouncing around on the playground, and I imagine their counterparts back in those orphanages, with just as much right to a family, to happiness, with just as much potential to shine, but who are instead left behind. 


Nancy said...

Excellent post!

Nicole D said...

Amazing. You and Monkey are so lucky but it breaks my heart that there are so many others out there who won't get the same chance. :(