Shattered Families Part Two: What I Propose

In part one of this little blog duo on international adoption I talked about the huge amounts of corruption we, who are on the ground, are seeing. I wrote about my belief in international adoption and how my motivation for this whole conversation is to find a way to clean things up so that international adoption can remain an option for the children who truly need it.

Read the whole thing here.

Today i’m going to try and give some advice to adoptive parents and those who work in international adoption about what we can do. Please remember that adoption is messy messy business and there is no one simple formula we can apply to ensure things are ethical. But we can do better. This is my best effort at helping those on this journey do their best for the children they are trying to help.

So here we go:

1. Start listening, and believing, the stories. When we talk about giving the voiceless a voice, don’t forget about the shattered families international adoption can leave in its wake. 

2. Start putting as much passion and energy into preserving families as we put into getting adopted children home. I dream of the day when media campaigns and lobbying is done for vulnerable families at the same level it is done for international adoption.

3. Start supporting organizations that keep families together or work towards domestic solutions. I know… I know… I’m a little biased about this one, but you don’t have to support Abide. There are so many other great ones out there!

            Like: Child’s I, Ekisa MinistriesBring Love In, Children in Families, and Heartline Ministries

            [be sure to include your favorites in the comments!]

4. Become educated. Stop supporting the adoption agencies that have unethical practices. Pull out of country programs rife with corruption. Avoid the lawyers whose fees are enormously large [there’s a reason for that]. And honestly? The key to becoming educated on these things is to talk to people on the ground. We know. We hear things and we see things.

6. Believe us when we tell you that the birth mom was coerced, or money changed hands, or that lawyer is corrupt, or that orphanage traffics kids. You wouldn’t believe how many times we’ve tried to speak truth to an adoptive family only to be completely ignored. We’re not just making these things up for fun, we’re just as passionate about seeing children in families as you are.

5. Stop thinking of kids still in process as “yours”. I know this is a really hard one. I’ve haven’t adopted yet, but i’ve walked that road with others and I know that the second that referral picture hits your computer or lands in your lap your heart explodes. But when you prematurely start to think that child belongs to you, you are much more likely to ignore red flags and less likely to support resettlement should you discover that child has loving family.

7. Stop letting poverty be a good enough reason for international adoption. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve heard people justify their international adoptions with “but the mom was just really poor”. Did you ever think to ask whether the mom was ever offered any assistance to keep her children? It’s not an ethical adoption if the birth family was never given another option. Let your kids starve or relinquish your rights? That’s not an option. Let’s support birth families who love their kids so they can keep their children instead of giving them up.

8. Ask questions. Ask so many questions. Don’t just blindly believe what you’re told by your agency or orphanage or lawyer. If possible, hire a private investigator.

9. Watch your motivations. If your motivation is to help a child then you shouldn’t care if you have to switch countries or agencies or orphanages to be more ethical. Be careful that adoption doesn’t become more about you and your plans, then the well being of a child.

10. Remember the extended family. Especially when adopting in Africa, family here is large and extensive and kinship care is alive and well. Just because a child is a total orphan or if the primary caregiver is not capable of caring for them does not mean they should be adopted. There are uncles and aunts and grandparents on both sides and older siblings and neighbors who are like family. In Uganda it is really rare that there isn’t someone in the family who is willing and able to care for the child. We’ve only come across cases where that isn’t possible a handful of times.

We owe it to the kids and the shattered families to speak out. To stop only telling certain stories, the stories we like hearing. We owe it to them to dispel this myth that adoption corruption is really rare so we should just stop talking about it [because, I so wish it wasn’t true, but it is far from rare].

To be responsible and honest in our attempts to care for the children in our world we have to fight the hard fight of shifting through the layers of corruption and deceit to find the truth. It’s hard and it’s messy and it’s not very fun…. but these children and these families? They’re worth it.


16 thoughts on “Shattered Families Part Two: What I Propose

  1. Every Orphan’s Hope is another great organization (in Zambia) that keeps AIDS orphans in their communities by creating families from orphans and a widow…so that the community gets the benefit of keeping their youth in country…and extended families are still part of one another’s lives. (The unemployment rate in Zambia is in excess of 70% – many extended family members would love to raise their orphaned grandchildren/nieces and nephews, but are having a hard time providing for their own families.)

    Love these blog posts. Thank you!

  2. I love reading and following the work you and Kelsey (I know her family) are doing. The work you are doing with Abide has educated me about how there are so many other (better!) options other than adoption. Thank for your sharing your words and heart for Jesus. They are a blessing to many!

  3. Megan- what are your thoughts on a child who lives in a part of the country why their medical needs cannot be addressed. Total orphan but does have extended family but they can’t travel to get medical care on a consistant basis.

    • Such a hard one and further proof that nothing in this conversation is easy or simple. Honestly? I don’t know. It depends on the situation and it depends on the kid. I’ve battled this questions with a couple similar situations, and never quite know if we’ve made the right decisions/what the right decisions is. Obviously our go to answer for all hard ethical situations should be, what is in the child’s best interest? A couple options that we considered: Is anyone in the family willing to move closer to care? An NGO willing to take on their medical care? Could the child be fostered in country and still able to maintain a relationship with their family? Does the child have a chance at a healthy life in country, or is their only chance at survival being adopted outside the country? Super hard ethical questions.

      • Thanks Megan…I really don’t think that anyone would have been willing to move. Also I guess I still feel like even if a child can be fostered that is still not as good as a family. I know not everyone agrees with that. As an AP and hopefully AP again (but not in Uganda again any time soon!) it is hard to deal with the gray situations. I guess the best we can do is is too seek God and never let our will trump His and be neutral to see that His ways our not always His ways and be accountable to people who will shoot straight and be willing to walk away….sorry for the long run on sentence!

      • Natalie… just a quick note fostering looks different in Uganda then in the west. Since adoption is so hard to complete [three or more year process in country] most Ugandans informally or formally foster but never go to court to complete the adoption. They view the fostering as adoption. I also don’t know what the medical issues are that you are talking about, but we’ve also considered that option when there is a chance the child could improve enough to go home.

  4. Pingback: Making Sure an International Adoption is Ethical | Of Cabbages and Kings | Leslie Fain

  5. Have you heard of Ekubo Ministries? I served with a team there last summer and the Mom, Christie, told us almost exactly what your posts convey and it really upset most of us because we thought she was just trying to defer us from helping. However it was an eye opener after visiting a ministry opposite to what they are doing to keep families together. They have hundreds of families there in their village and it is amazing to see the hope being restored. I want to go back and serve in the village this fall and would love to come see your project.

  6. Megan,

    Came across your blog today. Thank you so much for your insight and voice. I also just attended Summit in Chicago – wish I would have known of your blog before – I would have stopped by to see you! 🙂

    Currently, I am a PAP and have been in the process for adoption from Ethiopia for the past 1.5 years. From your perspective, is there any way to proceed ethically? Or, is the only option to come to a halt?

    Thank you for your time and thoughts!

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