Friday, August 24, 2012

Things left unsaid: a hypothetical Q&A

When I guest posted about Christians, adoption ethics, and God's call over at Jamie's blog, I never, ever imagined it would be as controversial as it was. Ever. It seemed to me that all Christians would agree that, especially as Christ-followers, we should be above reporach in our adoptions, and we should do everything in our power to ensure an ethical adoption process.

via on Flickr

I still fail to see how that can be a controversial view. Please, someone, show me where in the Bible God or Jesus said to do unethical or immoral things in order to accomplish his will?

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

There were some lovely, supportive, understanding comments, and I cannot tell you how encouraging and refreshing it is to hear other Christians stand up and say no to unethical practices in their adoption process. But, there were also a lot of ignorant, mean, hurtful, comments directed at me, both on the post and through private means. I tried to educate the ignorant, ignore the mean and hurtful, and focus as much of the comments on ethics as possible. That was my goal in writing the post. That was my goal in the comment section. But that's not my goal here.

Right now, I'm going to respond to those comments, and I am going to explain myself a bit more. The easiest way I can think to do this is through a very schizophrenic self-moderated question and answer post. The Qs are what I imagine (or have actually read) my detractors saying. The As are me. Here goes.

Q: You are a real piece of work for moderating my comment! And that title is just an attention-seeking tactic!
A: I had nothing to do with comment moderation and have not seen any of the comments that were not published. It is my policy here at gracelings to not moderate comments on new posts unless they 1) violate my or another's privacy (such as posting an address, last name, etc) 2) use foul or abusive language 3) are clearly personal attacks that do not add to the discussion (such as someone who comments "you are just an angry adoptive mother!" Um, actually, I'm not really angry. And I'm far more than "just" an adoptive mother. But thanks for trying to label me and put me in a box! DELETE!) or 4) are on posts older than 14 days (this is mainly so that I can make sure to see any personal messages if they are there.)

I also had nothing to do with the title of the post.

Q: Why do you hate adoption?!
A: I don't hate adoption. I hate unethical practices in adoption. 

Q: There's little to no evidence of unethical adoption practices in Ethiopia! They are certified, so unethical practices would rarely be able to occur!
A: Ethiopia is not a Hague signatory. Even if they were, being a signatory country does not ensure that unethical practices do not occur. It may decrease unethical practices, but it doesn't eliminate them. That's like saying just because there is a speed limit, people don't speed. Uhhh, right. 

Further, because Ethiopia lacks infrastructure and for a myriad of other reasons including the paternalistic values of the society, unethical practices can occur with ease. There is a plethora of evidence of unethical practices. If you fail to see that, I haven't got much else to say. 

Q: If people use good (Christian) agencies, their adoption will be ethical!
A: The potential for unethical practices is far beyond the reach of the adoption agency, although they certianly can play a role. In my case, the unethical adoption practices we discovered were, I believe, outside of the control and knowledge of our agency, and were certainly nothing that I could possibly have prevented. I have many friends who have independently investigated their adoption and found unethical practices, even though their adoption process itself was ethical. For instance, a friend recounted that their private investigation showed a very ethical process, yet the agency lied to the birth mother when she sought out information about her child 2 years post-adoption.

While there are certianly some agencies who have a history of engaging in known unethical practices and some who tend to have a better record, the point is that chosing an ethical agency is simply not enough to ensure an ethical adoption.

Q: Sometimes it's better to tell a few white lies so that children can have families and not languish in orphanages.
A: Really? Believe me, I have struggled with this. But I cannot ever imagine standing before God on the Judgement Day and saying "well, I thought lying sinning was okay because that child needed a family!" Can you?

Via DFID on Flickr

Q: Your stance is going to discourage people from adopting! 
A: My stance may discourage people who do not care about ethical adoptions from pursuing an adoption. I'm okay with that. Actually, I kind of hope that happens.

If people are willing to do the hard work of ensuring an ethical adoption, I believe these kinds of conversations will help them in making wise choices. These conversations will encourage them that, even knowing what I know and being very skeptical, I do believe ethical adoptions (from Ethiopia and elsewhere) are possible. For me, that would be encouraging, and I would throw myself into learning what I needed to do to make sure my process was ethical.

But anyone who is scared of adopting because of what they read at that post probably shouldn't be adopting anyway. If talking about ethics- the good, the bad, and the ugly- scares you, then I'm going to say adoption just isn't a good fit for you. Because the world of adoption is full of ethical dilemmas, not just during your process, but for the entire length of time you call yourself a parent to an adopted child.

Q: There are lots of kids in Ethiopia that really need homes!

A: Correct. There are lots of children in Ethiopia that need homes. Most of them need to be reunited with their first families and empowered to stay in their original homes. Many of them need to be adopted into the communities that love them, that know their history, their story, their culture. Some of them need to be placed into permanent, loving foster families. And a few of them need international families to adopt them.

Q: Well, some of those kids that need adoptive families are young, healthy infants! How can you say that you don't support adoption for those sweet innocent babies?!?!?!
A: Some sweet, healthy, innocent babies will become available for adoption. Efforts to keep them in their first families will fail for a variety of reasons. I believe all children- regardless of age, sweetness, health status, or any other indicator- deserve to be placed into a loving, permanent family as soon as possible if efforts to maintain them in their family of origin fail.

It's really easy for me, though, to say that I personally would not feel comfortable adopting a young, healthy infant. Here's why: currently, the average wait with any agency that is remotely ethical is 2-3 years for a young healthy child. That means parents who are choosing to adopt young, healthy infants are actually waiting for their future referral to be born. They are waiting for an orphan to be created. Yet, the orphanages and care centers are already full of children who need families (see the question directly above this).

I would not feel comfortable waiting for a child to be born, waiting for an orphan to be created, when there are thousands and thousands of children who are already waiting for a family. When we adopt, we do so because there are children who need families, and we are a family that wants children. I would not feel comfortable ignoring the children who are presently in need of a family just so that I could get a young healthy infant at some future date.

There are also the supply and demand issues in IA.. you know, when you create a huge demand for a certain type of child, the system will bend (and eventually break) trying to fulfill that desire. I think there is truth in that, and even if I were able to ensure that my process was totally ethical, I would not feel comfortable adding to the list of PAPs waiting for a child that fit their "order." Maybe you feel comfortable with that, and you have good reasons for ignoring the waiting children in favor of a child who has not yet been conceived, let alone orphaned.

But I don't.

Via Rita Willaert on Flickr
Q: Just because we don't feel equipped to adopt an older or special needs child does not mean we shouldn't adopt!
A: True. Very true.

But please remember, no matter how young or healthy your child is when they come home, you don't know what the future holds. I think most people convince themselves that a young healthy baby will not have attachment or health issues. That may be. Or, that child may very well have attachment issues or develop health issues down the road. In my experience (and I am not an expert), I've seen older and SN children without attachment issues and almost no "surprise" health issues, and I've seen babies who develop severe attachment disorders and have all sorts of health issues. You just don't know what's going to happen.

The way I see it is every adopted child has special needs that most biological children do not have, and if you do not feel prepared to deal with those needs--- if you aren't prepared to accept any other issues that may come along--- you shouldn't be adopting. But if you do feel that you are prepared for those special needs, why not consider a child whose needs are documented, rather than a child whose needs will be a surprise? Don't let fear of attachment or health issues keep you from considering a child who is waiting right now for a home.

Q: You are still basically saying that infant adoptions are unethical. Well, guess what. Adopting an older child, waiting child, or special needs child doesn't ensure an ethical adoption!
A: No, I'm not saying that healthy infant adoptions are always unethical. Not at all. And you are right, older children, waiting children, and special needs children do not an ethical adoption make! Every person who chooses to adopt must be willing to do the hard work of ensuring the ethics of their adoption. Period. (see also: my point in my original post and here)

In truth, I am not sure I would start an Ethiopian adoption for any child at this point in time. I can think of one or two circumstances (such as if Anna's biological sibling/cousin became available for adoption and I could not manage to provide family preservation services to them) where I would move forward, but for the most part, being very risk averse, I just wouldn't right now. The corruption is only part of it. The instability of the program, the impending political changes, and ultimately, my lack of Peace are major deterrents.

Q: God called us to adoption, so I don't really care what you think about ethics or healthy infants or anything else! We are doing what God told us to do!
A: That's great. I'm sure you will also not ignore the command in Eph. 5:15 to be wise, not unwise in how you live. The command to be blameless and pure in Phil 2:15. And the word to look after orphans (not children who actually have families, but actual orphans) in James 1:27. Good job. Let me know if you need help learning how to have an ethical adoption process.

Via Rita Willaert on Flickr
Q: Why did you bash [name retracted] and [event name retracted]? She is a Godly woman and I really had a great time at that conference!
A: I purposely did not name names, because I was not trying to bash an individual, but rather point out how even Godly, Christian women can be blinded to the need of discussing ethics. I believe the woman is very well-meaning. I believe the retreat is very encouraging to many. That was not my experience. She and I have, since the time of the original post, privately communicated further about the events of that weekend. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and agree to call her response a miscommunication.

That miscommunication fueled a lot of negativity in the comments. People were drawing all sorts of assumptions about me, her, the conference, adoption, motives, and who knows what else, based on that little miscommunication.

This seems to happen a lot when people discuss hard topics. Like ethics or racism. Most people, I believe, tend to take a "what you did" conversation and turn it into a "who you are" conversation. I think that happened on my post (and in the comments.) But that was never, ever what the post was about.

Saying that there are ethical concerns does not mean that I am saying that you are unethical or your adoption process was tainted. Just like if I say "hey, that remark sounded really racist," I am not saying you are racist. I can't see your heart and know your true feelings about race any more than I know the details of your process or child's history. But I can see evidence of corruption. I can see that there are Christians who will use the call to adopt to excuse unethical practices. I can see that there are many Christians who do not want to have these conversations. But that doesn't mean that I am saying your adoption- past, present, or future- is unethical.

I could tell story after story of people who have told me, and others who speak up for ethical adoptions, that in effect, Christians who are called to adopt need to "just obey God and go get their baby and not worry about all that evil stuff because God will protect them from it." I don't buy into the belief that as long as we pray and trust God, that we have no responsibility to do anything else to ensure our adoptions are ethical. We have every responsibility, every duty, every obligation to stand up and talk and learn and do everything we can to be above reproach.

So there you have it! I'd love to know what you're thinking now (assuming you've made it this far and I haven't totally bored you with my opinions:)

Do you agree? Why? Think I'm way off? Tell me about it.

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