A few weeks ago someone asked me why I'd turned my back on the Congo by choosing to foster in the US. First of all, that took me completely by surprise. And second of all, WHAT? The funny thing is that when we were adopting from the Congo, this question was always asked to us in the reverse form. I think the old adage that you can't win no matter what you do applies here. (Except that I do feel like I won, so maybe just scratch that.)
There are very few things that one must defend harder than their family planning choices- especially in adoption. Why is this?
This person felt that by us going the route of domestic foster care, that we were "slapping Congo in the face". (Nothing could be further from the truth) I get the occasional hate email (yay) and usually let it go right on by me. But this statement just cut me right to my core. I wanted to explain to this person that by not currently adopting from the Congo, we were actually able to help more kids there. I truly didn't think this person would get it though. It hasn't been only this person. Many, many people asked us why we didn't go back to Congo to expand our family. They assume that it's something scandalous or that I'm trying to "make a statement". Dude- my kids aren't statements! The basic story is that for a time such as this, Congo didn't feel right to me. That in no way means that I've turned my back or that I don't advocate like crazy for the kids there. So I just want to take a minute to share my heart about DRC.
I love the Congo. I think the people there are amazing. My heart soars when I hear beautiful stories come out on the DRC. And my heart breaks at the grossly under-reported tragedies that occur there in rapid fire.
I love adoption. I think that for the children who have no other options, that this is such a wonderful way to build a family. I've read so many great posts lately on adoption ethics. I'm glad that this is being talked about more in the mainstream. I think that there are a lot of great conversations happening. That being said, the climate of adoption in the Congo is a lot different now than it was when we began the adoption process for Miles almost 4 years ago. Then, there were a handful of us going through the process (I think the online groups I belonged to then had maybe 25 families in them). There were even fewer organizations facilitating adoptions from there.
Before I knew it, I was a part of online groups with hundreds of families in process and messages that said things like, "Our agency matched us with a pregnant mother who is set to deliver in a few weeks" and "is $2000 a reasonable fee to expedite an exit letter?" and "my agency won't give us an account of where our money went- what should we do?" Once I even got an email after I wrote a post breaking down the cost of Congolese adoptions that said, "Our agency said that you are a liar and that it really does cost $45,000 to adopt a baby. Are you lying?"
The climate shift wasn't gradual, it was sudden. Very sudden. Booms like this scare me and parents who have the best of intentions find themselves smack in the middle of a ring of corruption so thick that they can no longer see. I was worried that I would be one of them because I am emotionally charged and trusting by nature. Hear me on this: I will always think that children in the Congo deserve families. I still think that adoption for many children in Congo is the only way that this will be achieved. I applaud the families who are willing to ask the hard questions and wade in murky water and make a big stink to make sure that the children who are being referred truly are orphaned and take on a Congolese adoption in these uncertain times. But for my family- this wasn't the right thing. I just didn't have the time to dedicate to making sure that everything was done properly. So instead of signing up and hoping for the best, we chose not to sign up. I will never be one of the those people who gets her child home and then tells other people they shouldn't do it. I think that adoption in DRC is still necessary. I just hope and pray that the people signing up understand the current pitfalls. I wasn't up for it- but I'm glad there are people who are and who are fighting for change and an end to secrecy and corruption.
It was such a difficult decision for me. For two years we investigated the orphan status of a little girl I met in the Congo and that investigation ended in a way that did not lead her into our family. Twice we've committed to adopt an older child from a disrupted Congolese adoption and both times the family has changed their minds (how many times your heart can break over the same child you think is coming to live with you is yet to be determined). When I put forth a vision five years into the future, I STILL see my family having another Congolese child. But right now, the timing and the climate for me just doesn't seem right.
After much prayer and research we decided fostering made sense. As an aside- can I just say that one of the things that really bothers me right now in all the talk about adoption is that you can only be "pro-adoption" or "pro-family reunification". For the record, I will always be both. I refuse to choose because I think that it's going to take both (and a whole lot of other models, too) if we want to really care for children holistically. Fostering allowed us to have more kids in our home and allowed us to use the adoption money we would have been saving to give to development projects in DRC and help other families with their adoptions. I hate seeing comments made on blog posts about ethics about how "if everyone who wanted to adopt would invest that money into keeping kids with their families..." Can I just say that there are SO many people I know who ARE doing this? By the way- adopting is not charity. It's just not. It's a way to build a family- period. If you want to do something "charitable"- write a freaking check. For me, it's not comparing apples to apples.
As with all things that happen in adoption, that's just one more thing that doesn't have to be either/or. It can be both. Right now we are enjoying being a part of other people's villages. Perhaps in the future, we will be ready to move forward with another adoption. (someone catch my husband, he just fainted) In the meantime, we are still committed to the kids in Congo and it broke my heart to have that called into question. (Ironically, this accusation came just one week after our raffle raised over $6000 for vulnerable kids in Congo.)
While I know that I don't have to defend our choices to anyone, I just wanted to put a few thoughts on record. So- to sum up- it takes all of us doing something and this is just the something that we are currently choosing. NOT to make a statement about whether kids from here or there are more worthy of a family or because we turned "anti-adoption" or whatever other reasons people have asked me about. One thing that I've learned is that we all have ideas and paths that we take and just because we don't always agree with each path that another takes doesn't make it wrong. I love both of the paths we've taken and the people who have been on them with us and I love how they intersect in ways that have blessed us (and challenged us) beyond our wildest imagination.