Friday, May 21, 2010

Further Thoughts on Adoption, and Where To From Here.

As I footnoted on my last post, I think Geoff and I are going to hold out for siblings for a while yet.  Our comfort level with making a switch is not there at this point.

While the draw of a quick (well, there's been nothing quick about this wait, but I mean relative to the wait that will likely be ahead of us yet for siblings) referral is so very appealing, at this point I think I'd regret it in the longer term.  A couple of people have suggested to me that we consider adopting a singleton now and then pursuing another single adoption a year after bringing this child home.  That's an option, for sure, but to be perfectly honest, I just don't think we can go through this whole adoption process again.  After eight years on this journey, the thought of stomaching yet another few years is just too much for me.  When I mentioned it as an option to Geoff, his first (revealing) comment was a heavy sigh.  He immediately commented, too, that he doesn't really see that as an option.  We're both ready to be done, and to move on to the next part of our lives:  enjoying and nurturing life with our completed family; and following the continuing journeys of our many friends and acquaintances who are on a similar course.

One of the primary reasons I think I'd regret not waiting longer is because we don't yet know the outcome of MOWA's decision regarding relinquished children.  For those who don't know what the issue is, the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) in Ethiopia decided earlier this year to impose a ban on the referral of children who have been relinquished into institutional care (as opposed to children who have been abandoned).  The effect on the adoption world has been acute - referrals have slowed down considerably, mainly because the vast majority of children in Ethiopia are brought into orphanage care as a result of being relinquished by family members, rather than being abandoned and then brought into care.  MOWA has been concerned about the practices of its many orphanages and has been investigating  orphanages in several regions of Ethiopia to ensure that standards of care and the process by which children are brought in and then referred out from the orphanages is fully appropriate.  While this investigation continues, MOWA has banned the referral of any relinquished children.

Three of the four orphanages Imagine works with are located in the regions that MOWA is investigating - though we have full confidence, based on what Imagine has told us, that these orphanages are in no way at risk of closure, given their standards of care, and given the checks and balances that have been put in place by Imagine to protect the children from inappropriate or illegal practices.  In fact, it is rumoured that one or more of the orphanages that Imagine works with will be receiving some of the children currently housed in some of the MOWA-closed orphanages.

I fully believe that the relinquished children situation is a temporary one.  To be clear, other than Imagine's stated belief that they, too, think this is a temporary situation, I have nothing other than my own conjecture to assure myself of this.  My thoughts on the matter stem from practical considerations, two in particular.

First, it is fact that most children who are placed in an orphanage in Ethiopia have been relinquished.  If a ban on relinquished children were to become permanent, new orphanages, and in large number, would eventually have to open, in response to the desperate plight of families who are forced into the position of needing to find care for their children.  Those new (or expanded) orphanages need to be supported financially in order to  be able to care for the children and compensate the caregivers.  The primary means of support would be the financial injection into the community provided by adoption agencies world-wide.  Bottom line is that, unless MOWA is intending to mostly/entirely shut down its international adoption program (which doesn't appear to be the case), at some point they'll need to re-open the doors to referring relinquished children.

Second, from articles published recently in other parts of the world, it appears that Ethiopia is headed in the direction of becoming a signatory to the Hague Convention, which is like a code of conduct for international adoption that governs signatory countries when it comes to ensuring the safety of the children being adopted (for example, by implementing safeguards to prevent the abduction, sale of, or traffic in, children).  I don't know much about how a country becomes a signatory, but I understand that one of the initial steps involved is for the country to complete an assessment of its existing adoption program and processes.  My hunch is that this is precisely what MOWA is currently doing.

Bottom line: I fully believe that MOWA has Ethiopia's children at the heart of its concerns and are doing their level best to ensure the care and safety of the children and of the adoption process in general; and I believe (hopefully correctly) that, at some point, the ban will be lifted on relinquished children.  That, in turn, will absolutely affect the number of children that can be referred to waiting families.

So...we'll hang on for the moment and wait to see what happens over there.

I feel very mixed about everything involved in what I've just said.  When I suggest that I think MOWA will reopen the door to children who have been relinquished in part to acknowledge the number of relinquished children being placed into institutional care, and while I think of that as potentially good news for us, it is also terrible news for those many, many families in Ethiopia who are in the position of having to bring their beloved children to an orphanage.  How does one reconcile these two polarities??  I find it shocking that I can somehow balance my feelings of so desperately wanting to complete our family with the knowledge that my family will come at the cost of someone else's worst possible pain.  I can talk and write so matter-of-factly about whether to adopt one child or two, but the reality is that either scenario is painted with a brush dipped into the red and black colours of pain and despair.

I know many of us in the adoption world struggle with these feelings - knowing that our family comes with a huge emotional price tag attached to it, for the children we adopt and their biological families.  So often, people not immersed in this world have said to me that my children will be so lucky to have us as parents.  Lucky??  Our Ethiopian-born children lucky?  These are children who have no control in the process, no control in the trajectory of their young lives, and will have to lose everything known to and loved by them in order to enter into our family:  their home; their parents; their siblings; their country of birth and familiarity; their culture; their language; caregiver after caregiver.  That doesn't feel so lucky to me.  It sure feels like we're the lucky ones...look at all we have to gain.

Oh, there is nothing simple or easy about anything to do with this process, is there.

* Thank for the comments, folks - as ever, I find them encouraging, insightful, and supportive.  You're the best!


  1. Great Post Ruth! Congrats on making the decision that is best for your family. I completely understand the not knowing if you can go through IA again. It is challenging on the best of days. I hope your wait is short from this point forward.


  2. Nope. Nothing simple or easy, that's for sure. We still feel pretty strongly about siblings, too...even though our position on the single child list would be much nicer. We are most definitely with you in the decision-making process - a whole journey unto itself.

  3. So true Ruth! We are the lucky ones. We have lots of people saying how lucky the twins are - how they've 'won the lottery'.

    Really? They've been through countless trauma and things I can't speak of, and that's winning the lottery? People just don't even think of these things.

    And like you guys, we could not see adopting again. I'm in awe of people that go through this long, horrible process and can still adopt again!
    Take care,

  4. Hi Ruth...ya for sure you can copy the article from my blog. Thanks for thinking about us and our court date on Monday, we will be anxious to hear the result. I am anxious to hear about a sibling referral as guys are in my thoughts!

  5. Hi Ruth,

    IA seems so simple on the surface (children need families and homes, families with homes and love to give them...), but it is sooo not that simple, and definitely not easy! I love reading your blog. You say everything I think and then some.

  6. Liesl (#26 sibs)May 21, 2010 at 4:38 PM

    Ruth, I've been reading on and off your blog for a while. It is such a hard desicion (or non-desicion) to make regarding the sibling information, etc. To switch or not to switch. Sounds like a simple thing to decide. How utterly hard it is! We have also decided to stay put for now. I wish you lived closer and we could actually meet for tea. I so enjoy your outlook on things. Take care, you are definately not in this alone. I'm meeting with my adoption moms group next week to specifically pray about this.