Were you raised in a multi-ethnic family or neighborhood? Do you have lots of friends and family who would crush people that made an issue out of race? Maybe you had a sibling that was physically challenged. Was working with children who had mental challenges in a job you had while putting yourself through school one of the highlights of your life? Were you adopted? Did one of your parents betray your family and walk away? Are your early family secrets darker? Do you need to actively work at not letting the demons of former abuse rule your life? Could you teach your child how to achieve success in those same areas?
What were your challenges in life? What have your experiences been? What have you already overcome and what have you learned that few other people understand? What type of a child who is available for adoption could you most relate to? Which child could you most help to overcome the tragedies that have befallen them? Nature stacks the deck for those who have children biologically and you should consider doing the same in adoption. My biological sons have lots in common with my wife and me. Any surprises so far? The genes of my wife and me combined to make people who had similar strengths, weaknesses and personalities to ours. My wife and I are quite different, and I relate to one of my sons better than my wife does. She has a better understanding of our other two biological sons. Still, nature gave us kids with similarities to us so that we would have a better chance at being successful in raising our children. I grew up in a community that was pretty much a mix of Caucasian and Hispanic families, with a few Greeks thrown in. Sadly, religious differences that followed those ethnic lines kept our groups from being very close. We attended the same schools. We ate lunch in the same cafeterias, though usually at different tables. While ethnic hate almost never showed its face, we didn’t cross lines in dating very often and as we got older, marriages between the major groups were rare. While my history gave me experience with tolerating other groups, it did not give me experience in treating everyone the same as those from my demographic. Furthermore, I didn’t expect another group to treat me like their favorite person. In the microcosm I grew up in, races respected each other while keeping separate. I really wish it would have been different. Still, that fact made a huge impact when my wife and I decided to adopt. I could picture my sixteen year-old daughter telling me that she didn’t know if she belonged with “her people” or “her family.” I knew I wouldn’t deal well with that so one of my adoption requirements (which wasn’t a requirement for my wife), was that children who joined our family would look like us. That requirement (along with some less significant conditions) took us to Russia. My wife, Amy grew up in an abusive home. She entered foster care at fifteen. My wife knew how to go about winning against the demons that come with being raised in a home led by a notorious sex-felon. She knew how she felt having a neglectful mother. Amy had already dealt with a first family that failed. My wife understood that you never “get over” those things, but you develop tools to cope and to take back control of your life. Four girls in Russia needed a mother who was exactly like my wife. They needed a path that a mother had already traveled and prepared for them. Even so, it has been a lot of work and frustration. Still, those girls have parents that can at least relate to them and their histories. Because adopting parents played to their strengths, those girls have a better chance at success than they would in a family that understand their challenges. Deciding what child to add to your family should not be based on political correctness. I guess that if you are as good as Jesus is, you might base building your family on what Jesus would do; but until you get to that point, build your family around the abilities, strengths and experiences of parents. Of course there are parents who are very successful in raising adopted children with whom they have almost nothing in common. The hard work and dedication that such parents put into studying and understanding the conditions that their child has been—and will continue to be exposed to, can bring incredible success and I would never argue otherwise. Even so, if you’re going to sit at the adoption table, it’s perfectly legal to arrange the cards in your favor. I recommend that you deal yourself the cards you will play the best. Nature would stack the deck for you. Don’t be afraid to do the same.
More blog articles by John M. Simmons about Down Syndrome/Intellectual Disabilities.