Recently, a woman on one of my adoption groups was asking for advice after receiving an unexpected referral- the child she was referred was older than she expected, although within the age range that she had specificed to her adoption agency.
Another woman responded, basically saying that she should just take the referral and be glad of it, and besides, with bio children you take what you get and if people had the choice to refuse a referral for reasons other than medical concerns, only the pretty children would be adopted...
My initial reaction to the second woman's response was "are you kidding me?" I mean, does this woman really think that someone would be so shallow as to refuse a referral because they don't think the child is cute enough? Seriously? Maybe she is shallow enough to do that, but no adoptive parent that I know of would actually refuse a referral because of the looks of the child. In fact, I have seen some not-so-beautiful referral pictures (all of which have grown into lovely children!) and never once did these parents ever think twice about refusing their referral based on their child's appearance.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized how misinformed this person was. First off, she states that it should be okay to refuse a referral because of health concerns, and later states that with biological children, you take what you get, and that is why you should take what you get when it comes to the referral of an adopted child. What, so if you give birth to a child with medical issues, you should just "deal with it" but you should not have to "take it" if your adopted child has medical issues? Well, that seems to be in complete opposition to her "take what you get" stance. Not to mention that in the US if you have access to prenatal care, we can predict medical issues. And when a parent is told that their unborn child may have medical issues, you are given the option of terminating the pregnancy.
In fact, speaking of terminating the pregnancy... did you know that in the US, some pregnancies are ended because of the sex of the child? Yep. That sickens me. Now, this woman thinks that she should be able to choose the gender of her adopted child, as well as the health status. Interesting how she picks and chooses what she should be allowed to pick and choose, isn't it?
I am not sure what the point of this post is other than to express some of my frustration and to point out that, in the US especially, you never "have to" with children. You never are forced to "take what you get." Besides the option of terminating pregnancy, you also have the option of relinquishing a child. It happens. I have seen a couple who chose to relinquish their child after it became evident that the child had profound medical issues. Similarly, in the US you have the option of choosing to try to save the life of your child who is born prematurely- even if they are so premature that their lungs have not even grown to a size that could support life.
The choices Americans have that many others do not have is amazing! How can that woman ignore that? How can that woman lump all the children born in the US into the category of "you take what you get?" It is so naive!
And her logic is so warped that it cannot even be called logic. You should be able to choose this but not that, because with biological children you can choose this and not that? Except, what she is suggesting adoptive parents be allowed to pick and choose are NOT the same as the choices you make with a biological child.
In then end, what I have learned is this: the decision to expand your family, be it by birth or adoption, is very personal. No one knows what is right for your family except you. And even within your family there can be varying opinions about what is right for you. Who am I to judge that? Sure, I have thoughts and opinions, but at the end of the day, I am not the one being asked to parent that child. I am not the one being asked to wait longer for another child. I am not the one who has to deal with the grief of shattered expectations. Really, who am I to judge?
I would hope that as parents who are entering a world of transracial and transcultural adoption, we all choose to be tolerant. We don't have to like another person's choices. We don't have to agree with their choices. We don't have to support their choices. But I hope we can learn to respect the fact that when an individual is making a choice about their family, there are far more factors than we could ever understand. And hopefully, we can be respectful.
It's by living this out that we teach these values to our children.