I remember when I was younger, and the world was a delightfully black-and-white place. Discerning God's will was as easy as don't lie or cheat and please be nice to everybody. Now, it's just not so simple, and the older I get, the more I wade into a world murky with gray and clouded with decisions between what feels like one bad option or another.
Heart-heavy, I sit here trying to process the news I received yesterday. At first, I thought I could take it in stride, trust God and all that. But tonight I realize that Dennis and I are facing a life-altering decision that will affect our family in a huge way. Not just our family, but the future of the children we are waiting for - or at least thought we were.
The Ethiopian government is meeting to discuss international adoption this week, and they are considering shutting down the whole thing. No more Ethiopian adoptions for American families.
This part is not so hard for me, because I know that I follow the God of the impossible. He can raise the dead and he can surely get us to our children.
The part that makes my heart sink and my throat knot up is this: they are discussing halting all international adoptions in Ethiopia because of corruption in the system. Children are being kidnapped and parents are being coerced to give up their children because Ethiopian adoption has become a booming business.
Don't get me wrong, there is still an intense orphan crisis going on in Ethiopia. Orphanages are overloaded with children without anyone to call "Mom" and "Dad". No hope for a future. No one to love them with the fierce, sacrificing love of a parent. No one to hold them when they have a nightmare. No one to cook them their favorite food. No one.
It doesn't make sense that there could be both an overwhelming orphan crisis as well as corrupt businessmen stealing children from their families, but it is a reality in many countries today.
Which is where our dilemma comes from. With each child I give birth to, I have a stronger passion for the motherless. I can't express the grief I feel when I hold my 2 month old daughter and think of the babies all around the world with no one to cuddle them and worry over them and teach them that the world is a hard but beautiful place. Babies need mommies. Children need parents. How can our desire to provide that have created such a terrible situation that some believe the best thing to do is shut the whole thing down entirely and let these kids continue to live in a third world orphanage where their basic needs are barely met? Even if international adoptions are not shut down, how can we continue in good conscience? How can we know that our children were not taken from their first families unnecessarily?
What are our options here? We do not feel that our family is complete. It's strange for me to look at our family around the table and only see 3 children. I genuinely feel like a mother of 4. I can't explain it. I wonder if this is similar to what it feels like to have a miscarriage? We've been expecting this child for a year and half now, and suddenly it feels like he's not coming. How do we explain to Izzy that she does not have a brother in Ethiopia, even though we've been talking about him and praying for him for months?
We could adopt domestically, but the odds are not in our favor with private adoption - they say no one will choose a family that already has 3 kids. Adopting a child out of foster care doesn't seem to be a great option, either, as those children are usually suffering from severe trauma and/or neglect and we have such small children. We absolutely haven't written these options off. We would love for God to lead us down this path.
Our heart has always been with the children in third world countries, though. We've taken some criticism for it, as some feel we're going after a trend or something more exotic than a domestic adoption, but the reality is that our hearts bleed for children who do not have the benefit of the system we have here. Imperfect though it may be, we have a foster care program that ensures children will be placed in families, as well as government funding to provide for their food, health care and education. They even have a chance to go to college. None of this can fill the void of a forever family, but it is a world away from the children in Ethiopia and other countries where babies lie in rows day in and day out without enough arms to hold them. Places where, if they age out of the system they are on the streets with none of the skills they need to thrive and will most likely resort to prostitution and drug dealing. Can you please imagine how helpless we feel when we realize that the only way to these children is to go through the very system that puts so many of them at risk? We feel that there is no good option here. We feel like we're fumbling around in the dark with so much at stake.
Maybe there is another, third option. One that falls in between adopting a child from Ethiopia and just abandoning the process altogether.
I'm exhausted and Dennis and I have a lot to discuss and think about, so I'll share about that third option as soon as I can.
My words fail. My heart falters. I wish I had the skill to adequately express what we, and so many other families in the Ethiopian adoption process, are going through right now.
Thanks for listening as we sort this all out, and we sure do covet your prayers.
Note: I'm sure you're wondering where I got my information about the corruption in the Ethiopian adoption process. Here is a list of the resources I've been reading over the past several months related to the Ethiopian orphan crisis. The majority of my information came from the first 2 books. I'm also including the last 2, which I haven't read yet, as I wasn't specifically looking for information about corruption. A quick Google search will also provide you with plenty of info.
Examining adoption ethics, part 2, part 3 (This is a relatively quick read, and this girl has done her homework.)
International adoption: Saving orphans or child trafficking? Great, unbiased article from CNN.com
There is no me without you
No greater love written by the founder of this amazing orphan care organization about his journey to Ethiopia, where he and his family have built a life.
I haven't read When Helping Hurts, but I've heard it referred to often.
I also just found out about The Child Catchers, and it seems like a difficult but important read for adoptive parents struggling with this issue.