Thursday, December 9, 2010

God does not care where you were born. . .

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?"

31 comments:

Cortney said...

Great post to a common asked question Valerie. I agree 100%.

Lisa said...

The best and most complete response I have heard to date.

Ross said...

Amen Val!

Renae said...

You go GIRL!:)

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for those with big enough hearts to spread their love to the needy children!

- Crystal Bailey(posting as anonymous because I don't have a blogger account :)

Loren said...

What an excellent post! Please can we have an update on Alayna & Lily - how are they settling in, learning english etc.

Trying Traditional said...

Thank you for your post, it was well written and explored many of the different reasonings behind the complex world of adoption! I can not tell you how often I get asked why I "got kids from another country when there are kids here that need adopted." It's like nails on a chalkboard to me hearing that...as if I went to the neighboring town for a jug of milk!

A friend has posted this to her facebook wall and after reading it I posted it to mine in hopes that friends and family who still don't understand might now get it. Now I will go read the rest of you blog, lol :)

Jill said...

Well said.

Hollie said...

Valerie,

I do think you're being extremely defensive. I think that question is perfectly reasonable. I work in the child welfare system and I don't think there's any more deserving children that the ones in our foster care system. Many of the them "age out" with no families to call their own, no familial ties or support, nowhere to go for holidays, nobody to turn to in times of crisis or need. If these children are not placed with adoptive families, every single community is impacted. Here are some facts: the impact on communities if children are not placed in adoptive homes; 46% have not completed high school; 84% become parents out of wedlock; 48% were unemployed; 25% experience homelessness and 37% depend on public welfare assistance. Many are incarcerated. None of us escapes the impact of children without homes in this country.

If you want to adopt internationally, that's your choice. But, please, don't justify by stating that children overseas deserve a family more so than those here. Foster families are just that - they don't take the place of a permanent home and many children are abused by foster parents. I was really disappointed in your response and I think you aren't realistically and logically able to justify your choice with facts. I'm not criticizing you - just pointing out the major discrepancies in your justification. You clearly aren't as familiar with the US Foster Care system as you claim. Every child deserves a home, a family and as the Dave Thomas Foundation states, "every child is adoptable."

Sue said...

Way to go Valerie!

Tiana said...

Val you did a wonderful job in explaining both sides of the fence. Even the fact you explained how many people do try to adopt in the US Foster System and get denied because they aren't the perfect fit for the child. Yes every child needs a home and you totally expressed that wonderfully. Hollie I think you need to read her post again and realize that she did state that the US Foster Care system needs to be overhauled so that all who inquire to adopt a child will be granted. Just because a family is too big or whatever other reason that might be, they can't have children from the foster care system. In no way was Val justifying herself for adopting internationally. She doesn't need to or have to. She tried the other route...didn't work out for her. Doesn't work out for many. So internationally they go. Val is one of the kindest and most loving people I know. She would take every child she could if she was allowed. Hollie back off. She wasn't saying that they weren't adoptable.

Yvonne said...

Valerie,

Thank you for your post. I myself have inquired over 20 times on children listed for adoption through the foster system. As a single parent I think the social workers just don't respond because I don't fit the cookie cutter mold or something... I wish they would at least respond because it does take a long time to fill out the applications for each of these children. And I agree it is frustrating when you still see the little face listed... :(

Bottom line is God gives us the ability... he provides for us to do his work... and so we do it by the means that we can, for you and I and so many of our wonderful friends... it is through International adoption.

BTW, can't wait to see Alexis and Gage home and in your arms... may God continue to provide.

Yvonne

Katherine said...

Valerie,
Well said. As a social worker who has worked with foster care children I can say that there are flaws to the system. I know that for me the knowledge that I had about the system was a major reason I decided to choose international adoption. Although I do not expect others to understand my reasoning, I do expect them to be respectful. From what I have read from you and your family, you are adopting for wonderful reasons. I am so excited to continue to read about your journey to bring Alexis and Gage home. Don't let some people's negativity get to you.
Katherine

csmith said...

This post sums up so much of what I have tried to tell people (mostly family) when they question why we are considering international adoption. In most cases parents are encouraged to "foster-to-adopt" children in the U.S. but our family of six kids is too large to qualify as foster parents in our state. Many people don't consider the fact that even though children here deserve and need parents as much as any child, they probably WILL NOT die in foster care.They will most likely receive life saving care if they need it, just because they were lucky enough to be born here. U.S. orphans absolutely have a difficult life but they will grow up in a place where they have a CHANCE. A chance for an education, a future, a life. Kids in overseas orphanages do not have those chances and kids with disabilities often have a literal death sentence.

Sarah @ The Pumpkin Patch said...

Val, you and your family are an inspiration!

I'm with you Tiana. Valerie and Richard are two of the kindest, most loving, and humble people I know. Their hearts are absolutely in the right place. I've seen them go through this process for years now and have had several one on one conversations with Valerie about the nuts and bolts of adoption. She is not trying to "justify" their decision. She never said that international kids deserve adoption more than domestic kids. I know for a fact that they have repeatedly considered domestic adoption.

I think Hollie is being defensive because she works in the child welfare system. She may have taken it personally. Val was just noting that the system is flawed and sometimes hard to "fit into". Hollie definitely needs ro read the post again with an open mind and an open heart.

chaneym said...

well said. well said.

Alicia (aka "Yaya") said...

The ignorant questions don't end adopting in the states anyways. I can't believe some of the things people have asked or said about our son that we adopted from the foster care system. Completely rude. I think that unfortunately there is just a negative stigma that some people still carry around the term 'adoption'. It's sad because they aren't able to see what a beautiful child and true blessing is behind that word 'adoption'.

HailerStar said...

I didn't ask the question but I found that reading your response to it taught me quite a lot! I think your response was well thought out and well informed.

And that the lady named Hollie did not take the time to read the entire response, as you laid things out very clearly, and you never stated, as she claimed, that children outside of the US are more deserving to be adopted. You stated that ALL CHILDREN have the need to be loved and that God wants us to take care of His children (where ever we find them, however they come into our lives).

The fact that there is no system for care, to meet the medical, social, and physical needs of the child, in other countries is a valid point. One that I never knew before reading your post.

You have a big heart, and I admire all that you're doing for yourself and your growing family!

-Heather

Tammy said...

well said. i will be sharing this on fb and likely a link to my blog as well. Like the others, HOLLIE most certainly did NOT read the post the way it was meant. Dan and I, having only 4 children in our home currently, are realizing the difficulties of being matched in the US system. This may have been done in "anger" however, it was very well thought out, Val. I think it really shows the hearts of many adopters, both US and International.

Anonymous said...

VERY well said Val...THANK YOU. As an international adoptive parent I've been asked that MANY times and am just as annoyed every time I hear it. I've often asked why children overseas are less deserving of a home. We too looked into US adoptions and realized it was not going to work for us. However, I knew that God would lead us to our children where ever they were. We're often asked "why Ukraine?" My only response has ever been "because that's where God brought us". I have no other "explanation" as to why we adopted where we did. It's absolutely amazing the plans that God puts together for each of us. The other question we're also asked often is "why didn't you pursue fertility?" That's a much easier question for us. Our answer is simply "WHY?" Why when there are millions of children that need a home would we put our money and effort into fertility treatments that might not even work instead of adoption? I know that response/feeling is not shared by everyone and that's okay. But I don't criticize others for choosing fertility treatments so please don't criticize my choice to adopt or where I choose to adopt. God made my children just for me; just as he does a bio child :)
Thank you again for your post. You have an absolutely wonderful/perfect family and I thank you for sharing it with us. ~Crystal Leighton

Lori Schumaker said...

Amen, Amen, and AMEN! Thank you for putting all my thoughts and feelings into the best of words EVER! I think I may just print of copies and hand them to the folks that ask that question! :-)

Anonymous said...

I am a foster parent and I know that SW can sometimes be the biggest obsticle between a foster child and a forever home. SW are ALWAYS hesitant to even place foster children in my house bc i am 27, usually younger than the parents these children are taken away from, and that I am single. I have to win them over by how well i care for the children in my care, I can't even imagine how hard it would be if i wanted to adopt these kids, probably impossible! I do foster care because I feel like its my way of giving back to the community and helping our society and I dont understand why people dont understand that I could LOVE children in my care despite my age or relationship status.



Besides the most important fact is that KIDS DONT CARE WHAT THE MAKE-UP OF THEIR FAMILY IS, AS LONG AS THEY HAVE A FAMILY TO CALL THEIR OWN!!!

Kirsten said...

I totally agree with you! Children everywhere deserve to know the love of a family. I think you and your family are amazing, and your home must be filled with so much love. A love that you can feel when you walk in the door. I can imagine your home a haven on earth, where those precious little spirits can thrive.

kweenmama said...

Found your blog through Elaine at "Looking for George." As for this post...AMEN!

Anonymous said...

When I am asked why I choose to advocate for and hopefully adopt an international orphan vs a domestic orphan, my response is simple. I say something like, "Have you seen the ASPCA commercials where they show animals living in horrible conditions? That is what it is like for special needs orphans over the age of 4-6 in Eastern Europe." I have a hard time understanding why anyone would question the saving of a life, reguardless of where that life began.

Anonymous said...

Hollie,
Did you know many orphans (especially those who are deemed worthless in their country due to special needs) don't live long enough to "age out"???

schoolmother said...

Wow, this is a very good response, Valerie

Anonymous said...

Wow this is a GREAT post. I can't tell you how many times we have heard that and how tiring it gets. Just because my daughter was born in China does not mean that she is less deserving of a family then a child born in the US. She was ours and there was no denying it. We are in fact one of those families who have been trying for the last few years to adopt from the foster care system and have not been able to. It saddens me. I would love to, but so far they have not found us to be the perfect fit for any of the children we have submitted our homestudy for (and there are lots).

Karen

Jamie said...

Very well thought out and well written. Thank you!

Handsfullmom said...

Thanks for this very enlightening post. I stumbled on your blog because of Fiona and wanted to tell you I liked this so much, I posted a link to it on my blog.

Sherri said...

Thank you for being brave enough to write this. So true! It's interesting to me that people like Hollie who commented above didn't even absorb what your wrote. All we can do is speak truth, live truth and pray for those who have never experienced God's love through sweet orphans-turned-children of the King!