Recently a friend asked me what it was that prompted our family to choose International Adoption over Local or Domestic Adoption. Okay, actually….if I’m being anywhere near truthful, it wasn’t all that recently that our friend asked us this. It was back in uhhhhhhh, (clears throat) July. (Sorry, Melissa, for taking so ridiculously long to write the post I promised!)
Regardless of how long it has taken me to answer Melissa, I have to say GOOD QUESTION! And one I am happy to answer.
But first, I have to say that I love getting questions from people who are genuinely interested in why we are adopting, where we are in the process, how it is all going, etc. Thanks to everyone who checks in with us and for all the encouragement we have received already. We feel so very blessed by our family and friends and all the support we are surrounded with. If you ever have a question about adoption, whether in general or more specifically about our journey, I absolutely encourage you to ask it! I also encourage you to be patient like Melissa because with the pace of life around here lately, I may or may not be timely with my response!
So: the question about how we chose international adoption. It is a fact that there are orphans both here in the United States as well as all around the world. Children here and children abroad are in need of parents who love them. In need of family. Far be it from any of us to stand up and state that children here in the United States are more deserving of a family than the children who live across the world. Or vice versa.
Truthfully, deciding which type of adoption our family was going to pursue was both easy and hard. How did we do it? Why did we decide to go international?? Well, the short answer for our family is that so many doors opened in that direction and we honestly felt very led to pursue International adoption. We pondered, prayed, asked lots of questions, and researched a ton, and the people and events that were placed in our path all pointed toward going International. Most specifically, our school and church friends, Michael and Jana Funderburk, who were part of our church home group, adopted their own precious Ruthie from Ethiopia, and not too long after, moved their family to Ethiopia to work in country with Gladney Adoption Services. And so we have started on the journey that God appears to be leading us on.
That is not to say we didn’t wrestle with the fact that there are orphans right here in the United States who are in need of families. There are currently about 130,000 children in the American Foster Care System who have been cleared for adoption. These children need moms and dads every bit as much as the orphans who wait around the world for a family to call their own. We are thrilled that some of our very best friends in the world, Mark and Susan Peck, are even now in process to adopt a child or sibling set from their state’s foster care system. For over a year and a half now we have waited excitedly as they work with the folks in Missouri to prepare to adopt children out of foster care and into their family.
If you ask Mark and Susan what led them to adopt from CPS, they will tell you that it felt very natural to them because people who were put into their lives have themselves adopted from CPS and they have lived among these families and seen their adopted children thrive. These children go to church and school with them, they live in their neighborhood. They are friends with Mark and Susan’s four kiddos, and simply put: they are in a community where they have seen local adoption done well, and where they have a ton of support in place as they prepare to add two more children to their already large family.
I ramble on about the Pecks because their adoption journey is very similar to ours in that we have responded to what we have seen around us here, and when we see adoption, at least in our circle (admittedly a small sample size, but it is where we have been put!) it is almost always international. When you are stepping out into new territory, there is comfort in knowing you have families around you who have navigated that territory as well, and that you have some built-in support going into it all. (I know families who have been the first in their circle to adopt, and my hat is off to them for being the pioneers in their world as they see it.)
One of our younger boys’ best buddies from church is a beautiful little guy from Guatemala. Our families are in Home Group together. One of my daughter’s sweet friends from school is a hilarious little girl from China. Our beloved Kindergarten teacher and friend, Jami and her husband brought back gorgeous twin girls from Ethiopia. The list goes on…but after Michael and Jana moved to Ethiopia to work with Gladney, we learned a lot more about the plight of children in this particular country and the gigantic need for adoption. Our hearts were moved to welcome home one of these many little ones in need of a family. Here are just a few stats that tell some of the story in Ethiopia:
– Ethiopia has approximately 5 million orphans and the country is twice the size of Texas.
– One in ten children die before their first birthday.
– One in six children die before their fifth birthday.
– 44% of the population of Ethiopia is under 15 years old.
– Half the children in Ethiopia will never attend school.
– 88% will never attend secondary school.
– Ethiopia’s doctor to children ratio is 1 to 24,000.
– Per capita, Ethiopia receives less aid than any country in Africa.
Did you read my first stat? 5 MILLION CHILDREN. When people ask us about where we are adopting from, and I tell them Ethiopia, and they then ask “Why Ethiopia?”, I often drop that number into the conversation because honestly it is just so staggering. It is so desperately sad that there are any orphans on this earth, but once we felt drawn to this particular country, the immense need that we saw there compelled us. Statistics tell the sad truth: that of the 5 million children in need of homes in Ethiopia, less than 1% will find their way into a family. The rest will never experience the miracle of adoption.
The future prospects for children in Ethiopia who age out of the system, much like orphans in Russia and elsewhere, are very, very grim.
One of my children asked me what good it would do to adopt just one little girl when 5 million children in one country alone need homes. Good question. In reality, the answer for most of Ethiopia’s orphans is probably not ultimately adoption. Or perhaps better said, not just adoption, but adoption as part of an overall plan. Organizations who give aid, and help families in country to be able to support the children are definitely needed. Gladney, our agency, in addition to facilitating adoptions, provides much-needed aid and support in country to children and adults of all ages, including many children who will never be adopted. In addition, I have seen a trend that families who adopt from Ethiopia have a heart for the people of their child’s birth country, and they often look for ways to give back. We are seeing wells built, schools and homes established, and other wonderful forms of support put into place. I hope and pray that such efforts and compassion poured out will indeed begin to make a huge difference in the plight of orphans in Ethiopia.
But back to adoption: there is no replacement for a family. Growing up in an institution, while admittedly much better than living on the street, or in slavery, does not in any way begin to equal the love and support of a family to call your own. As long as there are children who need families, there will be a need for adoption. So….as to the question of what good does it do to adopt “just one” out of millions? I leave you with what is an old, old story, but one which beautifully illustrates the “why”…