When Adoption Isn’t Best
Not all adoption is good. This was hard for me to believe until I gained a perspective that isn’t as often shared or respected in the adoption world. Yes, there are children who are truly orphans in need of a loving and safe family, and adoption is the best option for them. But there are also children who still have living family members, who with support, could eventually care for the child.
My experience speaks mostly to international adoption. If you’ve ever visited a third world country, it is easy to empathize for the children and feel like so many of them should be adopted so they can have a “better life” in America.
But is that really the case? And who are we to decide that? In some cultures, mothers that can’t support their children will drop them off at an orphanage maybe for several years, so their child will receive food, and in some cases an education.
The mother’s act of dropping her child off at the orphanage isn’t intended as a means of resigning her rights and immediately signing her child up for adoption, unbeknownst to her. It’s a way of life. A culture. It’s different.
We may not agree. But just because its different doesn’t mean it’s wrong and certainly doesn’t mean that child would have a better life if they were adopted.
A year ago, we were settling back into life in the States and figuring out what our next steps would be. We had just moved back from Tanzania without the three boys we had been in the process of adopting for three years.
It was certainly a time of grief for us, but we knew ending our adoption was the right choice.
We had always heard about corruption related to adoption, but until you actually experience it firsthand it is hard to believe. If you’ve kept up with our story at all, you know our adoption ended because of corruption.
If you don’t know the story, to put it briefly, the boys we had been hoping to adopt had a living father and uncle. Due to the language barrier and corrupt attorney always translating for us, we were told the father refused to care for the boys and absolutely wanted them adopted.
We eventually quit our jobs and moved to Tanzania to live near the boys. We were able to meet with the father and uncle at the orphanage with the boys before we were going to bring them to live with us, at which point we sensed that something was off.
We took the next week to pray about it and spent a lot of time talking and processing with our friends who were local missionaries.
Our friend, who was fluent in the native language, agreed to meet with us, the father, and the uncle to translate on our behalf because we weren’t sure the father and uncle really understood what was going on.
We got the meeting set, and very shortly into the meeting it was clear that adoption was not the right choice for these boys. Their father never had adoption actually explained to him.
He thought we would help him care for the boys, educate them in America, and he could have them back whenever he wanted. Obviously, that’s not how adoption works.
The mother of the boys abandoned them, and the father works long days and lives in extreme poverty. It’s not an ideal situation for three young children which is why they are at the orphanage; But it’s also not a reason for the boys to be adopted.
This story isn’t uncommon in their culture, in fact, almost every child at their orphanage has at least one living parent, who currently can’t support their child or children and needs help for the time being.
It’s definitely a broken system, but it’s what has been happening in this culture and is a huge part of what makes these children and families vulnerable.
When we ended our adoption, we got a lot of comments like “can’t you just go talk to the father again”, “what if you promised to send the father pictures and bring the boys back to visit, maybe you could convince him to change his mind”, or “they would have such a better life in America, isn’t there something else you can do?”.
We understood people had supported us financially and prayerfully for the past three years as we fought for these boys, but the fight was over, and it needed to be over. No parent should be convinced to let their child be adopted.
And just because America is a developed country and may have more opportunity doesn’t mean it would be better for the children. America isn’t their culture.
We aren’t their biological family. What we think is better could be totally skewed by our perspective from growing up in a developed country, and I’m sure it is.
If we would have pushed for this adoption, we would be accountable. We would be the ones choosing to take the boys away from their father and other biological family because we “convinced them” or “made promises” or “it was best for them”.
I never want that to be part of an answer to an adopted child’s questions about their adoption story and biological family. It shouldn’t be part of their story.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever done is walk away from that adoption, trusting that the life they were living in the culture they were a part of was best for them.
Believing the best way to support their family would be to provide an education for the boys and hope that eventually their father would be in a place to take care of them. (Read the story of dropping the oldest boy off at school here).
We regularly keep in touch with the orphanage director and school staff to get updates on how the boys are doing. A few weeks ago, we received this picture:
This is a picture of the father and his boys. He was picking them up from school for a long break and taking them home with him for the first time in over 3 years, to care for them during the break.
He is still not able to care for them full-time, but he is making steps in that direction.
Family reunification is such a beautiful and important thing. Anytime reunification is a possibility, it should be worked for. This picture speaks of so much emotion for my husband and I.
It represents a choice we made, a lesson we learned, and a new passion we have for family reunification. Though it was a hard choice to make, this reaffirms that it was the right choice.
The best choice for the boys and the best choice for their family. That is their father. They should be with him, not us.
Adoption can be great, but it can’t, and shouldn’t be an option for every child in an orphanage. Extensive research needs to be done to ensure there is no living family and no possibility for reunification.
I share our story not to say “look what we did” but to bring awareness to the fact that corruption in adoption is real and happening. Vulnerable children and families need to be protected and they don’t have the knowledge or resources to protect themselves. It’s important to be aware of this and complete extensive due diligence if you’re ever considering adoption.