“We’re not heroes, we just want to be parents”.
“Well, ok…” you might be saying, while scratching your head and wondering why we feel the need to make a pronouncement about this.
Allow me to expound my friends.
When Dustin and I started on this adoption journey, we thought money would be our greatest stress in the process. We preemptively worried about the legal fees, the agency fees, the cost of baby gear and supplies. Here we are, 3 months into our journey, and money has taken a major back seat to another, more valuable and important aspect to this adoption journey. Ethics.
What does this mean? What do ethics and adoption have to do with each other? For us, ethics starts with how adoption affects the family as a whole, and by “family” I mean the child’s birth family as well as the child’s adoptive family, and more importantly, the child him/her self. Fair warning here, I may come off a little strong in this post and that is only because I want to make some very important factors concerning our adoption very, very clear. I apologize in advance if I’m preaching to the choir, but Dustin and I are definite newbies, so the issue of ethics and adoption is one we are just starting to explore. So, here’s where ethics and adoption start for us, it may be different for another family adopting a child, but this is where our convictions lay.
Number 1: We are not rescuing a child by choosing adoption. We are not super heroes, we are not noble, we are not any worse or any better than any other hopeful parent out there. We are two people who love each other and want to start a family. Dustin and I get to be part of the unique story line of this beautiful human that’s going to be entering our lives, as we are entering theirs.
Number 2: We are taking our time to choose an agency where their fees are not based on race. A lot of agencies out there have what they call “sliding scale” fees, this is to allow for people/couples coming from a range of economical backgrounds to adopt. The problem with this scale is that many of these agencies base these fees on the race of the child. When Dustin and I were starting our agency research, we saw a lot of agencies separating their fees into two categories. Each agency had their own names for these two categories, but I’ll give you an example of what they look like:
Domestic Infant Adoption Traditional – $40,000 to $58,000
Domestic Infant Adoption Financially Assisted – $25,000 to $40,000
When Dustin and I asked what these two programs meant, they were described like this:
Traditional – adoption of an infant of any race excluding African American.
Financially Assisted – adoption of only African American descent.
We were told by some agencies that these discrepancies are made to incite hopeful adoptive parents to adopt children of African American descent by making the fees more affordable.
I have to side note here and make sure to point out that there are various arguments for and against these incentives, and there are valid statistics for each argument as well. Before you read ahead, please know that Dustin and I are absolutely and unequivocally not saying that all agencies with sliding scale fees, are bad. Nor are the family that have opted to use these agencies. The reality is, adoption is extremely expensive, and for most couples, they just want to build their families, that’s it. In fact, some of the small agencies I talked to who had these fees, were very kind people and truly stood behind there arrangement of fees because they felt it would allow families of all types to adopt. Every family who is going to adopt is different, with different needs and different convictions. We are NOT standing in a place of judgement for those who have used the sliding scale fee system. We just want to do right by our future family in the road ahead and this is just one small area where we have a choice. Please, please, don’t take my word as gospel truth. Just read ahead with the understanding that I am only speaking about Dustin’s and my convictions, and where we feel that we can choose to be more thoughtful.
We are coming from the perspective that money shouldn’t be the answer to those statistics. This is a hard world for us to navigate through, we just want to do the best we can in all good conscience and with every thought towards our future children and how they will feel about how they came to be adopted.
They matter first.
Number 3: Adoption is not a baby mill. We often get asked, “when are you bringing a baby home? Hurry up!” I know this is because people are super excited for us, and we are so thankful for the massive framily standing behind us in prayer and hope. But for reals. Every time some one asks me this I feel like singing,
How much is that baby in the window?
The one with the sweet curly hair.
How much is that baby in the window?
I do hope that baby’s for sale.
Here’s my point. Adoption is already a strange world of paperwork, decisions, and loaded emotion. The motivation and joy for me is knowing that there is a living, breathing, thinking, human being at the end of this trail of unknowns. What adoption definitely is not, is going to a baby store, picking out one of the cooing, cute, little infants on display in a cage full of wood shavings, and paying the dude at the counter, going home and we’re all good.
These are human lives involved in this process.
There’s the expectant birth mother and father, not to mention extended birth family, who are unique individuals with their own feelings and their own journeys, that are having to process the difficult decisions they are making concerning adoption. They alone deserve to be treated with compassion, respect and empathy.
There’s Dustin and I. Our decision to adopt has been a painstaking one, full of prayer. Full of thought, countless hours of research and many, many conversations with other adoptive families (and most definitely many more to come). We chose this, not as a final or last resort, but as our preferred option to building our family. This comes with great risk. There is the reality that our first attempt to adopt will fail. There is the reality that the adoption process will prove to be more expensive, more time consuming, more emotional, then originally expected. These facts alone deserve to be treated with respect.
Most of all and most importantly, there is the adopted child. The human being who doesn’t get a choice for where he/she is going to be starting out their life. For Dustin and I, and most likely that child’s birth family, that child’s needs come first, though we haven’t even met him/her yet. It’s bad enough that some of these agencies really are out just to make a profit, which unfortunately means that there are women in crisis situations who are being coerced to give up their babies, and there are unborn babies and infants being treated like a hot commodity to be sold at the highest price to broken hearted, infertile couples, who have means but not the biology to build their own families. I don’t want our adopted children to ever feel like they were meat bought at a market at a premium price. Money can’t even begin to define their worth. The things we choose now matter and will affect our child in the future. We can’t be lazy or halfway about the choices we make today, cause tomorrow they could be the very choice that hurt our child or our child’s biological family.
Number 4: We Want Adoption. Period. We didn’t do IVF, we didn’t try IUI, we don’t want to do surrogacy. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with those options, it’s just not what we want to do. I’ve been pregnant twice. I lost one baby and miscarried the other. My body has been through hell and back, not to mention my heart and my husband’s heart. I am done with trying to make my body do what it doesn’t want to do.We love that we get to build our family with adoption. That’s all.
UPDATE: We are heading into our home study in the next two weeks, so our days are full of paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. It’s taking me back to my bookkeeping days, so I feel right at home in the pile of legal documents and information I’m having to gather…, and then it will hit me the import of all this paper gathering I’m doing and I am simultaneously anticipating with joy what’s to come, and fearing that it never will. The nursery is painted and furniture is being put together….soon.