Archive for the Adoption Category

Stakeholders in the American Adoption System – Identify Yourselves

Posted in Adoption, Orphan Care with tags , , , on December 19, 2007 by len20

I’ve really enjoyed the discussion happening on the “Is the Adoption Discussion One-Sided?” post. Aside from just enjoying a good discussion, I really think that we are all motivated by our compassion for kids and our desire to improve the parts of the system (in this case, the adoption system) that can be improved.

I’d like to propose that we air out some more of our laundry by identifying the stakeholders in the adoption discussion. I’ll make an effort to name the major players and give a brief description of their perspective. Then it’s open season to add, subtract, correct, and criticize. I have not included the ugliest players in the adoption game – those who use the system to exploit and abuse helpless children. I do not consider them to be stakeholders in this discussion; I consider them to be garbage.

Here we go.

1. Generation X Adoptees – adults age 25-40 who were adopted

Perspective: The American adoption system is good, but not great, certainly not perfect. While they may feel that they grew up in a loving home and were a welcome member of the family with brothers, sisters, mom and dad, they acknowledge that being adopted has had an effect on them (for better or for worse) that many would prefer (from their perspective) to glaze over. Being adopted hasn’t made them just like everyone else with a loving family; this part of their identity has made them unique. They are unique emotionally, psychologically, and with regard to developing their family tree. They are ready to embrace this uniqueness.

2. Baby Boomer Adoptive Parents – adults age 41-60 who have adopted children into their family

Perspective: Adoption has changed their lives for the better. The American adoption system is far from perfect primarily because of the expense and bureaucracy that prevents loving, well-intentioned parents from adopting more children. They adopted for a variety of reasons including a sincere desire to have a family of their own and to provide a safe, loving home for children who needed help. They consider their adopted children their own children and would ideally like to believe that their adopted children feel no differently about their membership in the family and self-identity than any biological children. Because adoption has been such a deeply personal and fulfilling part of their lives, criticism of adoption can be hurtful given that they adopted with the best of intentions.

3. Baby Boomer Biological Moms – adults age 41-60 who have given up a child to adoption

Perspective: I think this may be a mix. I know that there are women who are dealing with serious emotional and psychological pain after giving up their child possibly decades ago. They would love to have that decision back, to do it over, to do it better. They either have or would like to reunite with their biological children. They want to talk with them, to tell them who they are and to discover who their children are. On the other hand, I also think there are women who have found peace with their decision knowing that they made the decision in the best interest of the child. I need more help with this one.

4. Generation X Prospective Adoptive Parents – Adults age 25-40 who are considering adopting

Perspective: They are passionate about finding solutions to the great problems in the world – poverty, oppression, injustice. Vulnerable children are a focal point for their compassion. However, they have heard stories of adoptions that have not turned out well, and are more aware of potential negative outcomes than previous generations. They are afraid of doing more harm than good in their own lives and the lives of the children they would adopt.

5. Generation Y Orphans – 143 million orphaned children under age 18.

Perspective: Their perspective is probably still being formed. I believe our responsibility is to figure out how to best serve them.

6. Who Have I Forgotten?

Alright, let’s hear from you. Tear it up.

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Is the Adoption Discussion One-Sided?

Posted in Adoption, family with tags , , , , on December 14, 2007 by len20

I’ve recently been getting the idea that the adoption discussion has more characteristics of a monologue from one set of stakeholders than a dialog between several different perspectives. First, there was Reunionwritings reaction to my previous post, “Study: Adoption Not Harmful to Child’s Self-Esteem” which spun the news article’s idea around on its head to look at it from the biological mom’s perspective rather than the child’s. Second, Sang-Shil’s comments on the same post asks us to seek out the perspectives of those that may not feel that adoption is “the win-win-win solution that many claim it to be.”

Finally, I ran across an article today by Elizabeth Larsen in which she argues that people who are critical of adoption are not given the same opportunity to be heard. She emphasizes the perspectives of adoptees, birth families, and adoptive parents. She writes,

I think when it comes to adoption, American adoptive parents (myself included) steer the discourse. We direct adoption agencies and think tanks. We write the home studies of prospective adoptive parents. We are policy experts and doctors and academics and journalists. We are passionate about adoption—an institution that has given us so much—and therein lies the problem: In our passion, we sometimes shield ourselves from larger discussions about the toll that adoption can take, a discussion that is in fact gaining traction across the globe. And in doing so, we are preventing adoption from evolving.

My question is, why would there be such a disparity in the dialog? Is there a lack of people listening, or a lack of people speaking?

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Study: Adoption Not Harmful to Child’s Self-Esteem

Posted in Adoption, Media, Orphan Care with tags , , , on November 25, 2007 by len20

I’m still searching for a print version of this story, but for now you can listen to it on NPR. I did my best to scribble down notes as I listened to the story, so I’ve likely misspelled some names and gotten some details mixed up. Feel free to correct me.

I think there are some common fears that come with thinking through adoption. Mine especially is what if my adopted child can’t get over being adopted, can’t get over being different from his siblings and he just isn’t happy about it. A study recently published in the journal, Psychological Bulletin is very encouraging to anyone experiencing similar fears.

Femmie Juffer, a Dutch psychologist, used data from more than 80 different studies along with her own research to blow up the assumption that adopted children suffer lower self-esteem than other children. Her conclusions also say that kids adopted into families that are of a different race or culture are no worse off either. “Race just doesn’t matter as much as people thought it did,” she says.

Juffer also reports that psychology’s focus on very early childhood might be overdone. She found no difference in kids adopted between ages one and four, and those adopted before their first birthday. Kids who become part of a loving, stable family are able to adjust fully and overcome traumatic experiences in their first years of life.

The article says that many adopted children exhibit some developmental delays in physical growth, language skills, and school performance, but they quickly catch up with their peers.

Steve Nickman, a psychologist from Harvard, says that Juffer’s report is very encouraging, but has some limitations. It does not talk about kids who are moved from family to family in a foster care system or from one possible adoptive family to another.

In the end, it looks like parents interested in adoption have little to fear regarding children’s ability to adjust to a new family.

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A Tale of Two Pregnancies

Posted in Adoption, all about me, family with tags , , , on November 14, 2007 by len20

My wife is pregnant and the arrival of our “little bundle of joy,” as our doctor calls it every time we see him, is imminent – possibly as soon as next week some time. We’re pumped! Jill splurged on a hip diaper bag, and when I protested that it was too girly for me to use, well, we splurged on getting me a hip manly diaper bag that’s black and rusty orange and exudes testosterone.

Yesterday, I went with Jill to her obgyn appointment, and as always, we spent fifty minutes finding the appropriate wing of the clinic so that we could wait in the appropriate waiting room, and five minutes with the actual doctor. There are always interesting people to watch in clinics and hospitals, and the baby wing is no exception.

There were women in various stages of pregnancy either waddling around like they’re about to explode, or trying unsuccessfully to fit into their old favorite pair of jeans. The gamut ran from young couples like us, to single moms with three other kids hanging on their legs. And then a different family stepped out of the elevator.

It was mom and dad, and what looked like a fourteen-year-old girl. Mom was all business, but not the kind that anyone looks forward to doing. Dad looked incredibly kind and gentle. And the girl looked down at the floor. She took a seat across from where we were sitting while her parents checked in at the desk. She sat looking down at her hands twisting the hem of her dress around each finger. She curled her toes in on themselves, and her shoulders sagged. She looked like she was trying to fold herself up like a tent and just disappear. Every once in awhile, she swept her hand across her wet cheeks.

When mom and dad came back with the paperwork, no one looked at each other or talked to each other. Mom started writing on the clipboard; dad handed his wife and daughter tissues; and the girl continued to cry and collapse.

Jill and I could hardly stand it. Looking into this little family’s window, we saw the disappointment of the parents, and the shame and terror of that girl. There was such a stark contrast between what we were feeling and what they were feeling.

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The Buzz about Bella

Posted in Adoption, Current events, family, Media, Orphan Care with tags , , , on November 12, 2007 by len20

Has anyone heard about the movie, Bella? I got to see a screening of it at a big Orphan Care summit in Colorado Springs last Spring. It was a very good movie. There is a subtle pro-life thrust to the over-all story about a soccer star, Jose, wrestling with his guilt after hitting and killing a young girl with his car when she ran into the street. Jose’s life falls apart until he discovers that an acquaintance is considering an abortion and he takes it upon himself to listen to and support her as she struggles with this decision.

The producers of the film are using grassroots marketing techniques to get the word out on the film, which I’ve come to admire. The Bella website has all kinds of materials to equip people to promote the film. The website also includes a growing list of theaters that are showing the film. Theaters are added as the buzz grows and independent donations come in.

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Orphan Care vs. Adoption

Posted in Adoption, Orphan Care, The Text with tags , , , , , on October 26, 2007 by len20

Not that the two ideas are adversarial, but I think there is a temptation to be for one or the other. I work for a ministry whose mission is focused on orphan care, so that seems to be what I think about most. But I also believe that if you want to hear the word of God and actually do what it says (James 1:22) in a radical way, I think adoption is the most radical way for us to obey God and take care of orphans. I have many friends who have either adopted already or are in the process (the grueling, heart-breaking, expensive process) of adopting. My wife and I have talked about adopting someday.

Now, consider this – for all of the orphaned children in the world to be taken care of through adoption, every man, woman , and child in Mexico, Canada, and some additional small country would have to adopt at least one child. UNICEF calculates the number to be around 143 million orphans (check it out-p.12). About every 14 seconds, another kid becomes an orphan. Let’s say 350,000 of them will be adopted this year. This is an optimistic guess – about 150,000 were adopted in 1992, the last time an accurate count was taken. Let me know if you have a better number. That’s .3% – not even half a percent! What happens to the other 99.7% of those kids? Whose looking after them?

Ok, I’m beginning to rant and this is where it can be easy to misconstrue the two ideas as being opposed to each other. But they are so not. We have to do both! [I love it by the way, when Jesus answers the “Which one should I do?” questions with “Both” (Mt 23: 23)] I think if we take care of the tree while ignoring the forest, we fail. And if we take care of the forest and forget about the tree, we fail.

Alright, that’s my show for today. You’re a great audience. Let me know what you think, where I’m wrong, and if I’ve completely missed the boat.

Check out to find cool people working for adoption.

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