Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Week in Retrospect

It's been a rather interesting week in the "internet adoption community".

Like most other communities, adoptive parents are a diverse bunch, with sometimes radically different belief systems, educational and cultural backgrounds, and motivations. Obviously, we share our desire to create or expand our families through adoption- but sometimes, that fact seems to be the only thing that many of us have in common.

This became very apparent to me during the past week or so, and started with the internet discussions about a series of CNN programs that "investigated" international adoption from China. The first show displayed a panel of so-called experts- none of whom seemed to know a thing about Chinese adoption. This panel discussion degenerated into a lambasting of American white parents who adopt children from China instead of African American babies from the US. As you might expect, there was a pretty unanimous outrage from adoptive parents in general, and, as a response to a barrage of e-mails and phone calls, CNN aired a follow-up show, on which they heard from some real experts- a representative of Families with Children from China (who has 4 adopted daughters) and a member of the Chinese-American community. They explained that adoption is a very personal choice, and that the popularity of China as a country from which to adopt has more to do with the predictability and stability of the process in China than the race of China's children.

Indeed, the type of adoption that a family chooses- whether domestic, open or not, transracial, transcultural and/or international- is something, I believe, that gets thought about a lot by most adoptive families. There are many factors which influence the type of adoption that a family wishes to persue- and let's be blunt- the big ones are, in no particular order:

- cost
- emotional ability (or lack thereof) to deal with birth families
- length of time it will take to get your child home
- whether you meet the provincial, state, or country's criteria to adopt
- yes, cultural and/or racial preferences
- an assessment of the health, emotional, & developmental risks that your child will have been exposed to, either prenatally, or after birth

For some families, one or more of the above factors will be irrelevant. For other families, there may be one factor that outweighs all others. But I have always believed that all families are asked to consider their decision to adopt in light of such issues. Is this not part of the point of the dreaded "homestudy"- an intensive evaluation in which you divulge your most intimate family details and individual motivations to a licensed social worker who, then, writes a report on you, and recommends that you either be permitted to adopt a child or not?

Presumably, part of the decision to allow a family to adopt is based on the social worker's assessment of how prepared for or aware a family is about the issues surrounding adoption... issues like racial differences, health risks, the effects of early institutionalization, attachment problems...

Well, it seems that in some situations the homestudy and/or the adoption agency doesn't always fulfill this role adequately. A few days ago, I started reading about some discussions taking place on a Yahoo group that I don't subscribe to. Part of the discussion had to do with concern that China would "run out" of non-special needs (nsn) children and start "passing off" special needs (or Waiting Child Program, WCP) children as nsn. Apart from waving a red flag in front a lot of families, who like us, have requested to adopt from the WCP *as a first choice*, this comment made some posters raise the point that children from the nsn program are not always without health issues, and that families should be prepared for this. In response to such comments, someone posted (and I'm paraphrasing the paraphrasing)that this "thread" was decreasing her joy while waiting for her baby, since she didn't have the time or need to find out about the potential health issues that her baby might face! Well, sorry for the REALITY CHECK!!!

So, here's the question: how does someone with this kind of attitude get through a homestudy and be assessed by a social worker as being prepared to adopt? Either this lady put up a good front or her social worker just did not have a clue. I'm not sure where her agency fits in... I know that some agencies provide a lot of excellent information for adoptive parents, and some, not so much... but the onus has to be on the parents to go into adoption with "eyes wide open", for their own sake and the sake of their child.

Anything less, in my opinion, sounds something like neglect.


a&mg said...

An interesting week, indeed. Sometimes it amazes me just how much our lives have changed since joining the adoption community. Two years ago, I wonder if any of these things that we've seen and heard this week would have had even a slight impact on me. I'm glad to have learned so much through our decision to start a family.

Elizabeth said...

People are strange. Really. I try to post on my blog thinkgs to make others think, just like you do. It wont be a doll we are handed on gotcha day.Insert head shake.

redmaryjanes said...

This is a great blog. I hope that people read it.

new girl said...

Excellent post, Carolyn!