As Seen in Huffington Post
I can’t stand the waiting! I don’t know if I can handle another failed referral. What if they change their minds? What if I don’t get picked? Maybe I should just give up; maybe it isn’t meant to be. Those are things my wife and I used to say when we thought that adopting should be about us. If you follow writing from the adoption community, I’m sure you have seen these statements more times than you can count. You have probably read more blog postings than you care to about how adopting parents should deal with the stressful world of trying to adopt.
I once wrote an article for the Huffington Post about how parents typically decide to build their families for selfish purposes. This tends to be the case no matter what form of family building they choose; from unassisted biological child creation, to adoption, and everywhere in between. Even so, any of those parents who develop healthy relationships with their children eventually learn that parenting is not about the parents, it’s about the child.
Older children who don’t have active parents realize what they are missing.
Parents who desire to adopt would be so much further ahead if they brought themselves to understand that fact before adding to their families. Of course parents should want the child more than almost anything else in the world. Still, they will spend the rest of their lives trying to help the child in the best way that they know how, and always doing their best to provide them with what they need in order to have the best chance at success. With the exception of adopting a child who had mental disabilities, when my wife and I put the needs of a child to have a family before our own “wants” of adopting and infant, it has been much better for the family in the long term, and also better for the child.
Older children who don’t have active parents realize what they are missing. Usually, they understand at least the basics about why they are no longer in their first families. They are already dealing with mourning for a lost family and still know that they want a family anyway. When children are old enough to understand their adoption, as well as the history that has left them with such a need, there are certain advantages. In such cases, the child usually doesn’t need to question if they were kidnapped from first parents who are still looking for them. The reason for their first parents’ lack of providing a home for them is usually known, and it probably isn’t that adoption agencies and adoptive parents manipulated a mother into believing that she couldn’t care for her child so that the adoption agency could get money by “selling” the child to unscrupulous “new” parents. Older children almost always know that their first mother/child relationship didn’t end because the mother was shamed to the breaking point by religion and/or society, so someone else could get the baby they felt they deserved to have, regardless of what tragedies that caused for anyone else.
There will always be enough homes for the healthy babies.
I am absolutely not saying that it is more difficult to deal with a child adopted as an infant than it is to work with a child who was adopted at an age where they were old enough to understand. But when hopeful parents think that their parenting of an adopted child who has no recollection of their past will make it easy, they are wrong. There is nothing easy about helping a child to understand why their first parents didn’t (or couldn’t) keep them. In fact, I believe such a tragedy is something a person never “gets over.” While I do believe that adoptees can learn to cope, and that they can move on to acceptance, (when adoption really was the only option for them to have a safe family), there is always a scar. There are always the questions of what their life would have been like if everyone involved had been doing everything they could to help the first family to survive and succeed.
In adoption, parents are often in a position to “pick their problems,” or at least the likelihood of certain challenges. But far too many adoptive parents are not choosing the challenges that come with adopting older children because of erroneous beliefs that there are no such difficulties if they stick to their guns and adopt an infant. That makes me sad. There will always be enough homes for the healthy babies. It isn’t okay for us to allow older children to waste away without their own forever families. We need to bring them into our homes as our own children. We need to teach them how to be successful parents before it is too late. We need to ensure that they know how to raise their own children, rather than placing them into the same system that raised them, and which perpetually fails children who don’t have active parents.
Now I know what to tell self-absorbed adults like I was, when they whine about the unfairness of adoption systems. “Of course it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair for the children. And it isn’t about you, it’s about them!” I wish my knowledge alone solved the problem. It doesn’t. I will never forget the school-aged children who always approached the coordinators who assisted with our adoptions. There is no adequate response when children say things like; I can’t stand the waiting! I don’t know if I can handle another failed referral. What if they change their minds? What if I don’t get picked? Maybe I should just give up; maybe it isn’t meant to be.