I've been thinking more and more about adoption recently. We all know I have baby fever; while I wait impatiently to get to the point in our lives where we are ready to move from fever to reality, I like to distract myself by thinking about all the different ways we can have a child. This is also the only thing that makes me feel better about the possibility of not being able to get pregnant.
For the longest time, I was very interested in international adoption. I still find it a very intriguing option. I have a coworker who's been in the middle of the international adoption process since before I started this job nearly three years ago. They were focusing on one country, I forget which, maybe Vietnam, and then that fell through and they had to start over, and they ended up going with Ethiopia. And now, finally, they've been assigned a child, a baby boy. They leave on Monday to go to Ethiopia to pick him up. She will be taking five months off for maternity leave. I am so thrilled for her, so so thrilled, and can only imagine the struggles she and her husband have endured throughout this process. And the money they've paid. And the heartache. But now, the child they've been waiting for since at least 2007.
I'm thrilled for them. But I'm not sure I want to go down that path myself. And, as I mentioned recently, I wonder about some of the ethics of the process as well. My feeling is that those ethical concerns could be resolved, addressed, dealt with. But do we want to do that? I really, really like the idea of adopting through the U.S. foster system. Or fostering through it.
There's a website, AdoptUsKids, that features children available for fostering and adoption through the foster system. The website makes me a little uncomfortable in some ways--it seems almost like a pet adoption website for people, and that bothers me. But, I also find it fascinating. I have spent a lot of time looking at the profiles of some of the kids in the system, both in Colorado and around the country.
The site doesn't feature anywhere close to all the kids in the system. It has about 100 Colorado children listed, and I read in the paper recently that there's something like 6,000-7,000 kids in the Colorado foster system right now. So it's not like it's only these kids that are available. But they are probably a decently representative sample.
And from what I can tell, the younger the child, the more likely it is to have severe medical and/or developmental problems. In fact, if you search in Colorado for kids ages 4 and under, I don't think a single one appears on this site without a statement saying that they need significant medical support. In many cases the profile states that the child is unlikely to ever be able to live independently. And of course it's extra painful to read when the profile says that the medical problems are due to "non-accidental injury."
So, if we adopted through the foster system, would we want a younger child? Probably, right? If you adopt a kid you usually want her as young as possible so you can raise her and see her grow, right? But do we want, and could we support, a child with severe handicaps? My inclination is to say no, we wouldn't necessarily be the right family for that child. But then say I got pregnant and gave birth to a child with severe medical problems. We wouldn't be equipped to deal with them, at first... but we would get there, right? We would educate ourselves and learn to care for the child and advocate for her. So shouldn't we be open to doing the same for an adopted child? Is it somehow immoral to feel that we would do this for a child we conceived but not one we adopted?
I think mostly it isn't. We would never choose to give birth to a child with severe handicaps if we could help it, and I think it makes sense not to choose to adopt a child with similar problems. But, I will say, if someday we do have a child with medical issues, we would then become equipped to help other children with similar issues, and in that circumstance maybe we would make an excellent foster family for some of these kids with the major issues.
But as we are now, I don't see it happening. We recognize that any child that comes through the foster system will have baggage. No child will have been taken away from his family and come to a new family without adjustment issues and probably some emotional and behavioral problems as well. I think we accept that as a given when we think about adopting through this system. And I think we'd be fine with that. In fact, I think we'd be good at dealing with it.
But if we want to adopt a kid that doesn't have major medical difficulties, it looks like either we'd hold out for lightning in a jar in the form of one of the very few younger children who doesn't have medical problems, or we'd adopt an older child. And I have to say, reading the profiles of the older kids? It kind of kills me. Like one profile says that the boy went camping once and it was basically the highlight of his life. And another says that the kid dreams of owning a dog one day.
These are simple dreams, you know? These are kids who want basic kid things, the kind of things that all of us envision providing for our children. Camping trips and pets and all sorts of enrichment, for sure, but more than that, too. Love and nurturing and also limits and boundaries.
We don't have any parenting experience, but I think we'd be good at that. And I hope one day we get the opportunity to do it, whether we adopt a child in the near future or foster a kid at some point down the road. Or both.
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