Mothers

I was sick this weekend, but I’ll focus on the good parts – like how Freddy got to go swimming with his dad, and BB makes a mean chicken soup.

I haven’t posted much about adoption lately since we aren’t in the process, and we’ve been taking part in the greatest transition of our lives that never seems to end – failed adoption, pregnancy, birth, moving to Africa – you know, just a typical year in the life!

Adoption is on my brain again.  We are surrounded by adoptive families (yay!) and ministries that support orphans here in Rwanda.  Truly, one of the big reasons we wanted to come to Africa was to get a better picture of this orphan crisis we hear so much about in America.

I never referred to this article when it came out because I had a few other things going on (see first paragraph), but our story was highlighted in the NY Times back in June.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/01/us/moved-to-adopt-evangelicals-find-children-and-pitfalls-abroad.html?pagewanted=all

I was honored to be a part of this article on such an important topic and in such a widely-read publication.  Also, I’m relieved that the one (and probably only) time I’m quoted in the NY Times, it doesn’t involve me being mugged or an article about eating one’s weight in chocolate covered pretzels.

Last week I was humbled to go with a mother as she placed her 11 year old daughter at a boarding school for children with special needs. I lack the eloquence to describe this bittersweet moment, but it reminded me of so many conversations I’ve had (with myself and others) about birthmothers.  Spend enough time in the adoption world, and the issue of birthmoms relinquishing their kids will come up.  This came up with One World Adoption Services adoptions often because almost all the kids they adopted out had living birthmoms (and often two living parents, as we now know).

Since our experience, I’ve openly stated that if we ever adopted internationally again (and I hope we do!), we would not adopt a child with a living parent. While legal to do so, the standard for immigration in the US is that if there’s a sole surviving parent, the parent must be destitute and unable to provide for the child. Given what I know now, I’m not comfortable adopting because of someone else’s poverty. Reasonable people can disagree on this, but my personal opinion is that there are better ways to solve a person’s poverty than by taking her child away.

When I was with this mother taking her child to boarding school, I saw first hand the reasons why I couldn’t adopt a child with a living mother.

First, this mother was relying solely on word of mouth from other people in the community and her daughter’s counselors in deciding to take her child to this boarding school.  She doesn’t have the ability to do countless hours of research on schools to find the best situation for her daughter. There aren’t many schools to choose from, and her means and circumstances don’t allow her to make the inquiries we are used to in the developed world.  She has to go on trust.  In this case, she was given trustworthy advice.

A mother who takes her child to an orphanage does the same.  She hears things in the community or maybe someone encourages her to do so.  In some cases, it’s likely the right decision and gives the child a more stable environment with his or her basic needs being met.  In some cases, she may understand that her child is now an “orphan” according to international standards and looked upon as a child needing a family.  But how could I, as an adoptive parent, ever know for sure what this mother was thinking at this drop off?  How could I be sure that those who she trusted in making the decision were trustworthy?  Add to it the fact that, in our case (and many many like it), the orphanage director who was counseling mothers was making money off of referrals, and there’s no possible way that this mother had a trustworthy and objective counselor. If the orphanage has something to gain by a birthmom placing her kids with them or placing them for adoption, you can be 100% sure that any adoption would be tainted with corruption and coercion.

The second observation I made was when the school staff was informing the mother about her visitation rights. It reminded me of comments I’ve heard from adoptive parents (and things that I previously thought as well).  I often here well-intentioned adoptive parents justify adopting a child with living parents because if the parents were truly loving they wouldn’t take them to an orphanage and then not visit them.

I have no doubt in my mind that this mother I met loves her daughter.  I watched her wash her child’s feet before we left, nervously enter the facility, and hand the director her daughter’s blanket – her one solitary possession.  But I also can’t imagine the challenge it will be for her to visit.  Between finding someone to care for her other children, walking to the bus, waiting for the bus, paying for the bus, and walking up the mountain the rest of the way, the challenge overwhelms me.  If she doesn’t visit, it’s not for lack of desire or love.

Similarly, there’s no doubt that most mothers who place their children in an orphanage do it as a loving gesture – an attempt to provide a better life (at least by some standards).  Many do so with the intent of returning, but returning and visiting isn’t as easy as hopping in the car and driving over.  In the case of our adoption, the birthparents were a plane ride away on the other side of the country, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t long to see their children, and it also doesn’t necessarily mean that they no longer wanted to be the children’s parents.

I came to Africa to see this side of things.  It’s easy when we sit in our big homes in our cozy neighborhoods for us to judge the woman who leaves her child with strangers.  It’s something that almost never happens in the developing world.  Now that I’ve seen, I can start to understand a small piece of the life of a parent who struggles to care for her children.  I write this to memorialize the love of mothers for their children and to honor the love and trust that mothers have when they place their children in other people’s hands.  I want the world to know that an African mother loves her babies, just as mine loves me.  We need to do more for her so she can love them in her own home.

It is well

BB and I are in a big fight today because he wanted to take my computer to work, and I said I needed it.  Now I have to blog and upload photos and Skype with people all day to prove that I was right.  That’s marriage advice for you, free of charge.

I have the day off today because it’s Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.  As usual, it’s another gorgeous day in Kigali.

Maybe we are fighting because this week marks the one year anniversary of our trip to DRC.  About this time last year, we were waking up at St. Anne’s guesthouse in Kinshasa terrified that we were either going to meet our kids or that we weren’t going to meet our kids.  Tomorrow is one year to the day that we knew it was all over.

[Side note:  Almost every day since we’ve been here, we have broken out into gut wrenching laughter at the absurd things that the staff at One World Adoption Services told us about Africa.  Our favorite: they told us they couldn’t possibly get info about the kids background from DRC because there are no cell phones in Africa.  We knew that was ridiculous then, but it still makes me laugh.  I don’t think I’ve met an African who owns fewer than 2 cell phones since we’ve been here.]

Being back in Africa has stirred up these memories.  I was flooded with memories long-buried when we got off the plane.  I know it’s a different country, but the sights and smells of Kigali are not unlike the smell of Kinshasa.  It feels like the kids might turn a corner here and run into our arms.  I can still picture every part of them even though it’s been a long time since I studied their photos.  In fact, we actually found some of their photos in our luggage here – photos I hid in the suitcase when we were in Kinshasa. Funny how they continue to travel with us.

Here in Kigali, we meet a lot of families who have adopted.  I think Africa gets in your blood in a way that you can’t get rid of it.  If you’ve adopted, you are forever connected. If you’ve traveled here, you have to get back.  I love meeting these families, but the jealousy comes.  My heart is still raw.

Months ago I started reading Finding Fernanda, a book about corruption in Guatemalan adoptions.  I put it down because it was too hard.  Last night I picked it up, but I had to put it down again.  It’s as horrifying as you can imagine – stolen babies, duped mothers. How is it that we live in a world where millions of babies are aborted and then other babies are stolen from their mothers (literally from their wombs) and sold like a pair of shoes?  It’s impossible for me to not believe in the fall of man.

Thursday, August 9, 2012 was the worst day of my life.  The scary thing is there will be worse days to come – that’s just part of living.  Weeping and thrashing, unable to sleep, the Lord met me – through my husband’s embrace, through middle of the night text messages with friends in America, and through his promises.  Through our tears, we sang.

 When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say

It is well.  It is well with my soul.

Today we remember Chaty, Ivonne, Ives.  We pray that they are well and that we will meet them someday and thank them for teaching us to see God.

 

 

 

Is it possible?

There’s a lot of press these days about ethical adoptions.  A number of new books have recently come out, a documentary is making a nationwide tour, and the DRC has been seeing some ups and downs with its program (maybe other countries too, but I mostly follow DRC).

On one of my FB group pages, a common question is posed:  How can we ensure that adoptions are ethical?  I love the hearts of the adoptive parents out there.  We all want to have ethical adoptions.  No one gets into adoption to traffic a child.  I personally know parents who have discovered that their adoption shouldn’t have passed muster, and the heartache is great.  But is it possible to avoid this?  The how is so much harder.

Faced with the difficulty of ensuring an ethical adoption, parents can go one of three ways:  give up entirely, go forward in the face of possible shady circumstances, and move heaven and earth to try and do it ethically.  There are certainly pros and cons to each approach, and it’s hard to say which is really the right answer.  The waters are muddy.

And isn’t that what’s so hard about ethics?  Once you are sure that no laws are broken, there’s still an area of gray.  Sometimes the answer is unclear.

This is why I am still on the fence about starting again.  I don’t want to give up, but I am scared of getting back in the water.  I don’t want to screw it up!

As a Christian, I am called to get into the water.  All the way to the deep end.  Yes, we can’t fix all the problems with international adoption.  The whole idea comes out of a broken, messy tragedy.  Same with global poverty, world hunger, sex trafficking, war.  There are no easy answers.  But we have to try, don’t we?  Because sometimes it works.  Sometimes there is redemption.

And, really, what else do we have to do?  Isn’t this why we are on earth?  To work towards redemption and restoration.  I can’t sit home and just focus on myself and my family.  That’s not why I was put on the earth.  I have been given so much, and I have a responsibility to use my resources towards this goal of restoration.

It’s scary.  It’s hard.  I don’t have any answers.  But I will keep walking forward in obedience to the One who does.

Adoption Posts

I don’t have much to update today, but I hope to later this week!  Baby’s coming soon, Lord willing.

I was honored a couple weeks ago that my blog was mentioned by PEAR (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform) in a post about ethics in DRC adoptions.  PEAR is a non-profit org that seeks to provide resources and information to prospective adoptive parents, specifically in the arena of ethics.  I have found their website really helpful and necessary as we try and navigate the process.  Check it out!

http://pear-now.blogspot.com/2012/12/pear-ethics-alert-and-cautionary.html

My blog post on Adoption Agency Accountability was also mentioned by The Adopted Ones Blog last week.  So fun!  It’s a great blog from an adoptee’s perspective.

http://theadoptedones.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/12-for-12-almost/

Finally, I recommend you read Family Hope Love if you are passionate about caring for orphans and widows.  Sara is writing a book geared toward international adoption reform as a parent who has walked the journey.  She wrote a very convicting post that, I think, really highlights the role we are prospective parents play in encouraging further corruption.  It’s a tough read, but worth it.

http://www.familyhopelove.com/how-did-we-end-up-here-adoption-and-the-path-of-escalating-commitment/

 

 

We’re still here

Well, the world didn’t end so I’m back to buying toilet paper in bulk.

BB, just in case, worked until midnight to make sure those last few things were finished!  Gotta love that spirit.  I went promptly to bed because it’s my favorite thing to do.  As I was going to bed, I told BB two things in case the world ended.  First, that I loved him dearly and enjoyed every minute of our life together and second, that I had no desire whatsoever to survive the end of the world so not to try and save me should the opportunity arise.  Seriously, I’ve seen the movies.  Who wants to survive that?  Do you honestly want to live in a world with no running water or electricity, eating beans out of a can and running from bands of crazed cannibals?  No thanks.  I’ll go out with the nuke please.

I did spend some time thinking about the end of the world as I was going to sleep.  I don’t get into the predictions, but I do believe that God wants us to live as if every day was our last.  I was thinking through my life and contemplating any unfinished business I may have. 

Ultimately, I fell asleep.  But in the middle of the night I awoke in the middle of a vivid dream about confronting our adoption agency.  Then I spent about 30 minutes going over the dream and coming up with more things I would say to them if given another opportunity.  Apparently this is my unfinished business. 

I think the latest obsession comes from some phone conversations with another mom about her families’ issues with One World and then also I’ve started organizing all the photos of the children to put in storage.  I am sad because I so want to be over it.  I desperately want to forgive and move on.  I don’t want this bitterness to take root.   At the same time, it’s necessary to stay in the fight.  I truly think God is uniquely using me to advocate for other families and children, to educate people and to encourage change.  I love it, and I’m grateful for the privilege.  But it’s hard to re-live the drama over and over again.

I ended up being able to sleep once I started praying.  I may not be able to quite reach forgiveness and freedom yet, but I can pray for it.  God has his work cut out in softening my heart.

While it would have been nice to wake up this morning in the presence of Jesus, the Lord has other plans.  There’s still work to be done and so we are still here.

Unto Us a Child is Born

I finally figured it out.  Apparently I must have eaten some sort of small alien super-mouse, who is now grown to be about 6 pounds and is trying to claw his way out.  This makes a lot more sense than me being pregnant and explains a lot of what’s been going on.  I’ll let you know when he escapes.

Who’s ready for Christmas?  We watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation last week so I am.  Since we are going gift-free, this is basically a stress-free holiday full of lots of cookies and Christmas music.  Highly recommended.

Speaking of Christmas music, apparently BB was not actually born in this country or somehow grew up somewhere Christmas music is hated.  He’s supposed to sing Christmas music at an event on Saturday, and this morning he asked me to teach him the melody of the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  I am still flabbergasted.  Whoever is waging that War on Christmas must be quite proud of himself!

I’m looking forward to the holiday distraction myself.  Getting a little restless over here.  In some ways, I’m in the home stretch of meeting this little peanut and yet at the same time, it is still a far way away.  I need a deadline to work.  Not that I want him to come any sooner because we all know what happens when a baby comes – everything is awful.  There’s crying and pooping and crying and no sleeping.  Lord help me.  This baby better be darn cute.  I’m really counting on being able to keep my daily nap schedule and to watch The Wire.  Apparently this makes me mildly delusional.

Thus, I have started my “to do before baby” list, which so far includes:  hair cut, be extra nice to BB, pedicure, see Les Mis, clean apartment.  To be fair, clean apartment has been on every to do list I’ve ever made. 

I need a few good fiction books to read during this last push, so feel free to send me your recommendations.  I just returned “Lionheart” by Sharon Kay Penman to the library having only read 2/3 of it over the past month and a half.  I usually devour her books, but this one just didn’t capture my attention.  I have a number of non-fiction books on adoption, sex trafficking, the Holy Spirit, and marriage on my shelf, but none of those are drawing me in at the moment either.  I need fiction.  Yummy, colorful, fanciful fiction.

Leaving you with my Advent meditation verse for the day:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince Of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with Judgment and with Justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Love that it’s “unto US.”  Jesus is God’s gift to us.

Also love that Jesus came to establish judgment and justice.  Feeling a real need for that in 2012.  I keep hearing more stories from other One World Adoption families about trials they are facing in their adoptions, and it just makes me so angry.  It’s so heart-breaking for the children and families.  God’s justice will be done, and I have to take comfort in that.  No one gets away with anything even if we don’t see the justice done.

Hope your holiday preparations are going well.

 

 

 

Adoption Agency Accountability

I’m still pondering what we’ve learned.  I’m dabbling in a few different online groups and reading lots of stories of adoption that involve ethical disasters.  How I wished I would have read (or paid attention) to these things years ago!  But, like many things in life, I often have to learn the hard way.

I feel for adoptive parents out there.  You have this strong calling on your heart, and you are answering it.  You hear Russell Moore and the Warrens speak so passionately, and you refuse to ignore it.  You see the beautiful pictures and hear the stories of abandoned orphans now being part of a family.  We all want that to be our story.  None of us got into this to traffic children or to coerce children away from their families.  There are easier, more fun ways to spend your time and money than adoption.

What can we do?  I think we must must must demand accountability from adoption agencies.  Just as I am reading more about demanding accountability from chocolate, clothing and coffee manufacturers to ensure they aren’t using slave labor, so we must do the same with adoption agencies to make sure their children are legitimate, legal orphans who actually need to be adopted.

The first thing we must realize is that international adoptions in America is a business.  These agencies are out to make money.  Yes, they may have chosen this industry because they want to help orphans, just as Steve Jobs started Apple probably in part because he just liked computers and technology.  At the end of the day, money is why we do business.  Most of us would not go to work if they stopped paying us even if we really liked what we did.

We cannot be naive and accept that these agencies are full of good-hearted people who can do no wrong.  They may be good-hearted, well-intentioned people, but sometimes those people can do the most harm because they lack a certain cynicism necessary to do business.  At One World Adoption Services, Inc., for example, the director and staff were nice.  They cared about the children and the families.  But unfortunately, they have blinders on when it comes to doing business in the DRC.  They trusted the wrong people and refused to see their mistakes (and still refuse).  Are they kind?  Yes.  Are they Christians?  Probably.  But that is not enough to operate an adoption agency.

Follow the money.  We live in a time where the term non-profit has basically become meaningless except for tax purposes, yet we all believe that if we are using a non-profit adoption agency, then we are in the clear.  Wrong.  So wrong.  The agency directors and staff are making money off of these adoptions.  How else could they afford to do business?  They might not be getting mega-millions, but they are bringing home a paycheck.

It’s time we demand to know what these agencies are charging for.  What’s a referral fee?  To me, that sounds an awful lot like paying for the agency to find you a referral.  We shouldn’t need to find referrals.  There are either kids in orphanages who need to be adopted, or there aren’t.  Agencies should not have an incentive to “find” a child to fit the profile so they can collect the fee.

Agencies must investigate referrals independently of their in-country staff.   This is a no brainer.  One World told us that they do not ever investigate or verify any information they receive from the DRC.  This is appalling.

Agencies must have a presence on the ground on a very regular basis.  How can you oversee something but never see it?  How do you hire staff you’ve never met?  One World refuses to travel to visit the orphanage or check up on things, even after a large-scale scandal.

These issues are not limited to One World or DRC.  I have connected with many other families who have struggled with ethical adoptions from other countries with other agencies.  We cannot afford to turn a blind eye.  That would be a disservice to the orphans and widows we desire to serve.