Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guest Post: Walking Away from Ugandan Adoption

I have a dear friend who adopted internationally before I even considered starting my Ethiopian adoption. When I began seriously thinking about International Adoption, she was one of the first people I spoke with, asking about the process and her insights. In December, 2010 the tables were turned and she was questioning me about Ethiopian adoption! What fun! 

Eventually, Amy* and Mark* decided to adopt from Uganda. I was so excited- for them, for their family to expand, for an orphan to have a family, and to have another precious African child coming into my circle of friends. Unfortunately, things didn't work out quite as planned. Last month, Amy and Mark officially announced that they were walking away from their Ugandan adoption. Here is their story.

*Names have been changed

Image Credit: mountaintrekker2001 on Flickr

Our pursuit to bring a child into our family, through the blessing of adoption from Uganda, has failed. 

When we began the Ugandan adoption process over a year and a half ago, we knew that we desired to grow our family and to adopt a child who needed a home and a family. We were open to some special needs and were only approved to adopt a child ages 0-2, due to the fact that our youngest was 3 when we started this process (most agencies do not want families to adopt out of birth order).  During the entire process we were referred 3 different children by our adoption agency, Little Miracles International in Texas, and ultimately each case did not work out.

Most recently, we had been planning on bringing home a little boy, age 1, in early 2012.  As we waited and waited, we continued to read and educate ourselves on the adoption process, the ethics of International Adoption (IA) and on the corruption/child trafficking that is more common than not in Uganda.  The huge increase in demand over the past year caused the situation to get worse, not better.  As we learned more, we began to feel more and more uneasy about our adoption case, about the integrity of our adoption agency, the people whom they were working with, and the way they were obtaining children to be placed for adoption.

We felt convicted and knew we couldn't just sit here and hope that there hadn't been any corruption in our adoption case.  We needed to be proactive and do some fact-finding ourselves.  Through a hired investigation (apart from our adoption agency) we came to find some very disturbing information. 

Ultimately, we found out that the little boy's birth-family did indeed want him, love him and desire to parent him.  They were taken advantage of and not given all of the facts.  They were in such a situation (mainly due to poverty and sickness) they felt they had no other choice than to place their son for IA under the premise that he would receive medical care.  

Does this not make anyone else cringe?  Feel sick?  Cry tears of absolute sadness??  How incredibly unfair that I have never had to think twice about taking my children to the doctor or feeding them, but half-way across the world (and even down the street) these are the things mothers are faced with daily!

Taking children away from their birth family to bring them to a "bigger and better" America is not a solution!  

IA should be reserved for those situations where truly all other options have been exhausted!  This was not the case (or even close to it) in our adoption process. It turns out that all this mother needed was a bit of short-term support to economically empower her and she would be able to keep and parent her son.  So, that is what and how we choose to help do!  We have had the unspeakable joy of seeing this little boy be resettled back into the loving arms of his sweet mother!

Uganda classroom
Image Credit: emeybee on Flickr

Please don't think this has not been excruciatingly hard on our family.  I cannot even bear to look into the closet upstairs of my home, filled with sweet little boy clothing that were meant for this child. Our girls were confused for months about if we were or were not getting a new child in our family to love.  Our desire to bring another child into our family has seemed to be "put on hold" or "closed down altogether". 

BUT God used this story for redemption!  I could not have lived with myself had I (even in ignorance) brought home a child who had a birth family that loved and wanted to parent him.  So, for that I am incredibly grateful!  We desired to meet a need and in bringing home this little boy, we would have done the opposite.

Where does that leave us?  

I feel that perhaps one reason the Lord allowed this into our lives was so that I can now in turn educate others on the (often ignored) importance of ethics in IA.  I know many people who desire to adopt have pure motives, but the truth is that most times IA is NOT the best option for the child, it should only be a last resort.  I do think we need to evaluate our true desires in wanting to adopt and if we are TRULY wanting to meet a need in the IA world, more times that not that is going to mean opening your heart to a child who is older or has special needs.  The young healthy babies are not (again, most of the time but not always) the ones who need adoptive families.  By requesting those babies, we just make the matter worse.

(For information relating specifically to Ugandan Adoption, please read this post: On Ugandan Orphans & Adoption )

Uganda Wedding
Image Credit: cowyeow on Flickr

I think the stats speak for themselves, and please don't think this is just Ugandan adoptions.  Anytime money is involved in relation to adoption, there is risk of corruption.  It is happening all over the world and even here in the US.  It is so very important for PAP's (prospective adoptive parents) to do their job and research, research, research.  Agencies (who receive money for every adoption they complete) are not enough of an (unbiased) information source.  

During our adoption, many people prayed for us, asked us about our adoption and donated financially to our adoption.  Although we have requested our money back from our adoption agency, we were told we would not receive any of it.  Much of our adoption costs were paid for by fund-raisers that we did - our garage sale and our adoption auction.  We also personally put a lot of our own savings into this adoption.  

We are ok with this, as we truly believe every penny we have is God's on loan to us.  So, if He thinks we can afford to loose money, then surely we can trust Him with that.  And really, can you put a price on  a child being re-united with his family? However, since the financial donations were not used for their originally intended purpose, we strongly felt it was only fair to return the donations that were so kindly made to us.  

Image Credit: ommphoto on Flickr

Through this entire process I know I've been so convicted about remembering it's not about me, or my family or having another child in our home - it's about furthering God's agenda and doing that in the most responsible way I can.  The Lord gave us this verse when we started this adoption process over 1.5 years ago --

Prov 24:12 - "Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act." 

Mark and I always assumed this verse was calling us to adopt a child with special needs and helping the orphan crisis by internationally adopting.  But now, being in the spot that we are in, I wonder if perhaps God is (also) calling me to advocate for those who don't have a voice and to tell others that there are a lot of unheard sides to adoption, that we (especially as Christians) should be aware of!  

We are not anti-adoption, but we sure are anti "thinking everyone should adopt and that adoption is always the best option."  Although we don't know exactly what it will look like yet, we believe God has more plans in store for us to help advocate for those without a voice.

If you are reading this and still have further questions about how to go about an ethical adoption, or what children actually do need to be adopted, please comment or contact Grace who will forward me your info.  I have a wealth of resources I can share and I'd be happy to walk through it all with you! 

Amy will also be answering any more questions you may have in a second Q and A post... please leave your questions in the comments!

8/17/12: Read the follow up Q and A here.

*Names have been changed


scooping it up said...

whew. thank you. amazing.

Dani said...

Thank you for speaking out. And for doing the right thing. I hope your voice will help others see the truth and I hope the price you pay for speaking up isn't too high.

Teresa said...

My heart is full right now :)I love your "journey".Just wanted to say "don't give up"..we were presented and accepted 2 other children during our last adoption.First child was Svetlana from Kryg. second Victoria from Russia. They didn't work out for one reason or another..agency stuff or instinct or whatever..prayed to Mother Teresa for God's will...it was devastating.Anyway, went to court for Faith's adoption..guess what her bm name was? Svetlana Victoria!Oh..and Mother Teresa we discovered just prior to traveling, shares Faithie's birthday!His plan will be revealed, as hard as it is...your child will find you and what a wonderful, ethical family they will have.
Here is our journey, you can see Faith @ 13 mo's at the end she will be 6 in August.
Thank you for sharing you story,
(another nurse):)

Annie said...

So sorry for your loss. You are a true hero. Thank you for speaking out.

Dave and Joy said...

Yeah. Whew. This is a tough one, isn't it. Your heart has been shattered, and your kids have been exposed to hope and loss in a way I bet you wish you could protect them from...and yet you are walking by faith that God is not surprised by any of this and has even brought you on this journey out of His love and kindness to you, and is welcoming you in on His heart for JUSTICE and mercy to prevail...yikes, what a beautiful mess. I promise to pray for you as you seek the Lord's wisdom for how to unpack this for those who haven't walked this path. So many folks out there are "considering" adoption and certainly Satan would love to use anything to deter or distract them from pursuing adoption outright. Although I do agree with you that adoption shouldn't be the first resort, and I agree that any place that money is involved can/does become perverse and corrupt...still I do believe that the best place for a child is not an institution, but a family. And there are still children in genuine need of adoption (even though there are many that are not)...
So, how do you balance telling your story, and other first/second hand accounts of corruption, and yet still encourage people to pursue advocating for the "true" orphans who need adoption? It's uncharted territory - so I'm going to be praying for you. So many land mines that the enemy puts out there, ugh.
With love and appreciation,
Momma of four adopted kiddos

Lauren said...

I would love to talk with you. We spent 2 months in Uganda with siblings we had Legal Guardianahip for before the Embassy uncovered major fraud. We now send them to a good boarding school. I would love to be a support to you, as I know how lonely this road can be. Please feel free to email me grantlauren@yahoo.com

Christin Slade said...

You are exactly the kind of PAP I have dreamed about in these most recent weeks.

As my husband and I are going through the adoption process in Ghana, I've been reading all sorts of things in regards to paperwork and everything else related to adoption and of course, corruption was always on the top of our list even before we began searching for an agency.

So, as I was researching and I came across what types of "proofs" the US might ask for when filing an I-600, one of them was "reason parents relinquished child" and in some cases it was something as simple as lack of financial support. That was it.

It was then I posed this question to my husband: "If a PAP has full knowledge that the birth mother/family simply needs funds to help support their child/children, why in the world are they (the PAP's) spending thousands of dollars (in adoption fees) to remove a child from a home rather than using that money to help support the family of the child/children so the family can remain in tact?"

And here you are; keeping my faith in humanity to do the right thing, even when it's painfully hard. *Thank you* for sharing your story and I pray it compels others who might face the same circumstances to follow in your footsteps--including us.

Christin Slade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan said...

Thank you for speaking such truth! I work in Uganda and am seeing stories like this every single day. Most of the time corrupt agencies, orphanages, and lawyers are to blame but PAPs have the power to stop it if they knew and had the bravery to do the right thing. Children who really and truly need IA are being left behind as healthy cute babies are ripped apart from their loving families and flown to America.

Jodie said...

Thank you for your post and for speaking out to open minds. We did a post adoption investigation for our DRC adoption. Had I known before hand, we would have had one done while in process. In our case, our daughter's caretakers shared information about her emotional and behavioral disturbances that would have helped us to better understand what we were getting into. I am so glad we did it and were able to gain more light on her story

exmish said...

I totally agree. Having gone through one corrupt independent adoption process, it opened my eyes to the ugliness that is out there. Like you, I agree that there is a place for international adoption but that it is most likely going to be an older and/or special needs child. Families need to be prepared to wait for a long time OR to adopt from a waiting child "list" - and even then, there will never be an iron clad guarantee that there was no corruption involved at any stage of that adoption. It should never be about filling a PAP's wish list!

elizabeth said...

Thank you for this post. You have clearly articulated my gravest concern in personally adopting internationally (something my husband and I have always planned to do), and also my perspective having worked for a large Christian international development agency that believes agencies should do everything in their power to keep children in country. You are brave to share your story and advocate in this way.

I am curious - what organizations or programs have you found that are working specifically on enabling women in developing countries to keep children they think they cannot keep due to financial constraints? While microfinance programs and other general development programs certainly address the problem, I am curious about programs that stand in the gap at the critical moment, when families are ready to give up their children.

Abide Family Center said...

This is excellent. To the family who was willing to write this- THANK YOU. We are working to launch a program in the Jinja area focused on family preservation- to work with families who aren't provided alternatives to institutional care/international adoption for their children. Sadly, like this post so accurately portrays, the demand for certain demographics of children from Uganda has really messed up the priorities of many involved in the process- IA as a business or IA as a first priority will never allow for ethical Inter-country adoptions from here or anywhere. These stories need to be told & I just pray people who are thinking about adopting or who are in process are willing to REALLY listen and not just count themselves and their adoption as the exception.

Abide Family Center said...

Elizabeth- Just read your comment. That's actually what we are launching here- abidefamilycenter.org ...Also can get in touch with us through email at Abidefamilycenter@gmail.com We'd love to hear from others who have been through this- who have experienced the need for programs offering family preservation services. We see MANY orphanages here only offering adoption as an option to the birth families- and as this family found out, often if they were provided an alternative, they wouldn't choose to sign over their rights.

Julie said...

Thank you for this article! We lost a child in Uganda too through corruption. It happened after spending time with him and bonding with him in Uganda. It has been over a year since losing him, reporting the orphanage to the embassy, etc and our hearts are still broken. I pray for him and worry about him every day. I am SO sorry you have gone thru this but I agree that God can use your "speaking out" for His will to be done. Thank you.

Rhonda said...

Being in the stage of choosing an agency for Ugandan adoption, this post is riveting. It would be enough to frighten some away from IA altogether. It hasn't frightened me away because I am sure that this is the way for our family to go, but it confirms something that we've been learning and feeling-which is that the desperate need that we hear so much about it isn't as much about healthy infants as it is those that are older, siblings, or have some special need. We started out only feeling "safe" to ask for a baby because we have children already.......but God has slowly opened our hearts and our prayer is that He would bring whoever he has for us...whatever age, whatever circumstance or need.

What a good post......heavy, hard,scary, heartbreaking, devastating for this dear family, but what a blessing to hear of heroes like them who will not close their eyes to injustice even when it costs them in unimaginable ways.

Captain Murdock said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you for standing up for this little boy and his family.

Tasha Via said...

Wow! What a story...so glad you had the capacity to share. I'm so sorry for what you have been through. Not easy on ANY party for sure!

We too went through little miracles in 2012 in Uganda, although they were mainly to just help us get our paperwork in order stateside.

The things going on in Uganda are so disheartening to read about! Our case actually got sent to Nairobi, but immediately got approved for a VISA after realizing that everything was in order after all. Both our little girls parents are alive, but the father is totally out of the picture, didn't even know she was in the babies home, and the mother is dying of aids and considered her a burden she wanted no part of. I hate it and I hate how adoption cannot be more clear cut!

Each story is so different and so many factor's come into play.

I commend you for being brave enough to share your experience, and continuing to have a heart for the children who truly do need to have a family to love and support them.

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