Very rarely do I post in anger in response to a comment or question, but, over the years, I have grown very weary of one question in particular that we are frequently asked. International adoptive parents, I believe that you will all recognize this question because, chances are, you have also been confronted with it in one way or another on many ocassions. It generally sounds something like this:
"Why are you adopting internationally when there are so many children in the US in need of loving families?"
Of course, that is the nice way of phrasing it. More often than not it is asked venomously and sounds more like this:
"What? Aren't OUR children good enough for you?"
I realized early in our adoption journey that, most of the time, this question is posed by individuals who are ignorant to how adoption works, both domestically and internationally, and so I have tried not to let it get under my skin. I have recently come to the conclusion however, that accepting people's ignorance is not doing anyone any favors.
This morning I received a comment from "Anonymous" on this post asking this very question:
"It is great what you're doing for these children, but what about all the homeless, hungry and abused children in the United States? All the adoption blogs I read are from families who adopt out of America. There are kids in need here that are forgotten because they are not designer babies."
Because "Anonymous" has chosen to remain anonymous I cannot be sure of what their level of involvement in and knowledge of the adoption community might be, so I will address this question as I do with others who are ignorant of the topic.
In Fiscal Year 2009, there were approximately 424,000 children in the US Foster Care System. Of those 424, 000 children, only 115,000 of them were legally available to be adopted. 57,000 children were adopted from the US Foster Care System in 2009.
There are approximately 143,000,000 orphans internationally. According to the US Department of State, there were 12, 753 visas issued to internationally adopted orphans in 2009. In Ukraine alone (approximately the size of Texas), there are over 100,000 orphans. In 2009, only 610 were adopted by US citizens. Or consider Ethiopia. According to Unicef, in 2005 there were approximately 4,800,000 orphans in Ethiopia. In 2009, only 2,277 visas were issued to orphans adopted by US citizens from Ethiopia.
Most countries with international adoption programs DO NOT have a functioning foster care program. This means that the majority of orphans are living in state-run orphanages or on the streets. Unlike most of the children living in our US Foster Care System who have the advantage of living in a family environment, who receive an education and are entitled to all of the medical care and therapy that they need, international orphans, more often than not, do not even understand the concept of family (most have lived in orphanages their entire lives), receive little to no education and do not receive medical care or therapy for any condition requiring it.
Because my son Evan was born with a severe special need, he spent the first 3.5 years of his life lying in a crib. He received none of the necessary medical intervention and/or therapy needed to improve his condition and was slated to be transferred to a MENTAL INSTITUTION where he would have lived the rest of his life in a laying room, confined to a bed, receiving no education, no medical treatment, no therapy and never knowing the love of a family.
On the other side of the coin I have several close friends who have adopted children from the US Foster Care System. Their children have suffered abuse and neglect of the ugliest kind. They have been moved from family to family. They have known hunger, rejection and physical and emotional trauma that we could not even begin to fathom. As a result they suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), and ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) among many other things.
So please tell me "Anonymous," which of these children "deserves" to know the love of a family more?? The child laying in an orphanage overseas (possibly sedated or in their own excrement because the ratio of caregivers to children is so unbalanced) slated for a life in a mental institution because of their "designer body" or the child in the US Foster Care System who has suffered unspeakable abuse and neglect? Which one of these children do you think God loves more?
To me, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE!!!
Can you tell me where in the scriptures we are commanded to care for the widows and the fatherless, but ONLY IN OUR BACKYARD? Can you show me where in the scriptures our Heavenly Father tells us that He loves only "the least of these" living in the United States??
God does not care where in the world His children are born, whether in the United States, Ethiopia or Ukraine, HE LOVES EACH ONE OF THEM! They are His children!!! And He has commanded EVERY ONE OF US to care for the "least of these," to reach out and love and serve HIS children regardless of where in the world they are.
It is so easy to point the finger of criticism at those of us who are trying to follow the counsel and command of a loving Heavenly Father to care for the widows and the fatherless, but might I ask a question of YOU "Anonymous?" It is the same question I now ask of all who, upon learning that many of our children are adopted internationally, ask of me, "What about the hungry, homeless and abused children in the US?" It is simply this:
"What are YOU doing to help the hungry, homeless and abused children in the US? What are YOU doing to help the hungry, homeless and abused children of the world?"
As you can see from the statistic posted above there are MANY children being adopted from both the US Foster Care System AND Internationally (though, as you can also see, the number of international adoptions is significantly LOWER). As you can also see, the need is still great in BOTH areas.
Adopting from the US Foster Care System can be difficult. Of all of the international adoptive families that I know (and there are many), more than half of them have tried, at one point or another, to adopt from the US Foster Care System. In the past 5 years, our family has inquired about at LEAST a dozen children available for adoption in the US, only to be told that our family was "not what they were looking for." Another friend of ours has submitted their homestudy 57 times for children in our system and has never had a child placed in their home for adoption. Why? Because their family was considered "too big" (they have 5 children). If you browse this photolisting of children available for adoption in the US, you may be surprised at how many of their profiles say things like:
"This child would do best in a home with no other children, where parents can provide the child with the attention that they need."
"This child would do best as the youngest as the youngest child."
In some cases, this truly is in the best interest of the child (for example, if a child has been known to be aggressive towards younger children, it would probably be best to place them in a home with no younger children), but nothing saddens me more than to see a child that we inquired about YEARS ago, still available for adoption, still without permanency and the love of a family, because a social worker was not willing to consider a family outside of they believe to be the "perfect fit". So, "Anonymous," you might be surprised to learn that, often, it is not families looking for "designer babies," but a system in need of some major overhauling, looking for "designer families." It is not simply that the children in the US Foster Care System are "forgotten" or unwanted, sometimes it just comes down to the fact that there are not enough families interested in adopting who the system considers a "perfect fit."
There is not a single day that goes by that I am not burdened for the "homeless, hungry or abused" children in this WORLD (the children of the United States included). The scriptures teach us that WE are the body of Christ and that ALL of us are needed in order to accomplish His plans and purposes. So, "Anonymous," rather than asking the question, "Which child is more important to our Heavenly Father?" why not ask instead, "Lord, how do You have need of me?"