Every tree limb overhead seems to sit and wait, while every step you take becomes a twist of fate.
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road...

If you are new to our adoption blog please take a moment to scroll down to the archives at the bottom of this page and start with July 2009 post "Watershed."


Coming Out

I feel like I'm coming out of the closet....I am not an "adoption advocate."

There. It's been said. I'm hoping my followers don't all drop and run en masse.

How I realized this?

Yesterday I set up a coffee date with a woman from my church who is also adopting from Ethiopia. We were connected by email but haven't met in person yet.

Almost immediately after setting up our date I began having anxiety about what kind of path our conversation will take.

I realized I am not an adoption advocate because as I had mixed feelings it dawned on me that I am not the go-to girl for all things adoption related. I don't encourage others to adopt. I get nervous around people who I sense are part of the movement to get every Christian to adopt an orphan in need. I don't advertise about our adoption. I don't get excited when I hear that there is an adoption movement or a church starting an adoption ministry.


I am cynical I suppose.
I have read a lot of blogs and websites that present false images about adoption. I detest the adoption agency ads with photos of smiling healthy babies with taglines like "I am waiting for you to come and find me." Schmarmy. And really totally untrue in my experience.

Haven't we all learned from our adoption experiences that these days there are very few reputable programs that actually have healthy infants "waiting" for families. In fact, I can't think of one. There may be healthy babies waiting out there but they are not immediately available. China - 4/5 year wait now?
Ethiopia - most large agencies are 1-2 year wait.
Russia - majority of kids have special needs or at high risk.
Korea - phasing out healthy infant referrals for mostly special needs infant referrals.
Haiti- 2 years (although I have heard reports of 3+ years.)

So I have a hard time with the happy, warm, fuzzy belief that there are beautiful orphanages tragically filled with healthy infants who all happen to be double orphans waiting for us adoptive families.

Reality is that many kids who are adopted have one living parent. Reality is that most agencies have 90% of adoptive families registering for healthy infants while 90% of their immediately available children are older or have special needs.

That is a huge reality gap pertaining to adoption. So I can't be an adoption advocate unless I can be real with people and unless people get real.

Here is my personal reality check -those of us who want infants or toddlers (with or without special needs) are adopting to expand our families. That is the reality. I don't know anyone who is adopting an infant or toddler to "save an orphan" and quite honestly that would not be an appropriate reason to adopt anyway.

Here is the world's reality check - the vast majority of kids in critical need of and available for immediate adoption are older kids. Kids with special needs and long-term disabilities. I could be an advocate for adoption if both of these realities were part of the adoption discussion. If these were things that every adoptive parent understood or wanted to understand.

But I'm not sure that is the case right now. Many do understand. And many do not. And holding adoption pep rallies where realities are not presented are not my cup of tea.

You can see why I am nervous about coffee with my new aquaintance. I hate being a downer. But I hate unrealistic adoption small talk....

While I am on my soap box here I am going to say one more thing that may cause the last few of you reading to officially drop me.

I don't like the word orphan. There. I have said it.
I don't know a single child who would want to be called an orphan or who would consider it anything other than a discriminating and negative label.

And when we talk about "143 million orphans" in the world we are talking about children who have lost one or both parents. Vast majority living with a surviving parent. I just think it does injustice to the reality of the situation and diminishes the importance of that surviving parent.

I hope you don't all leave me or hate me. I have learned a LOT by reading adoption advocates' blogs. I have had my heart softened and prepared by adoption advocates. I have had deep and sustaining conversations with other mothers who have or are coming to these same conclusions. And I have been encouraged and loved and supported by people who would not agree with me and whom I would hate to alienate.

But I just can't find it in myself to be an adoption advocate. And I think that's ok. I am not anti-adoption. If I were, I would not be adopting! I have mulled it all over quite a lot and decided that I fall in the middle somewhere. Pro-adoption for kids that have been relinquished and are in need. Whose surviving parent made an educated choice or who do not have a willing surviving relative. But anti-adoption when it is provided or promoted as the only, or even the "best" answer. The be all, end all.



  1. This is spot on, I think. And I always want to hear your thoughts about this since you have great experience and therefore perspective that most of us APs don't.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you have written. I have always felt my adoption was and will be again a selfish act. I wanted to have a family so I chose adoption. I never for a minute have thought I was saving a child. I feel truly lucky and blessed to have been able to adopt yet saddened by my daughter's story. No worries, I am not leaving ya! I find your insight very wise.

  3. I don't hate you and I don't know how anybody with a personal experience of adoption could (if they're being honest with themselves). I had a conversation pertaining to this with my 11 year old (chronically-infected) child. She asked why Americans want Ethiopian babies and 11 year olds, or sick kids are "no good".

    I am an adoption advocate-but only in that I think it's a great way to expand a family if you're prepared for the realities of it. I don't think adoption is for everyone. Frankly, I think many people that adopt should reconsider. But, I don't think that adopting an infant child and then referring to it as "saving an orphan" is realistic. Nobody's saving healthy, infant girls. The adoption of healthy infants is a supply and demand business venture. It's hard to swallow the truth sometimes.

    I'd like to point out that we (my husband and I) are not immune to it-we wanted a healthy infant girl because we were first time parents and felt it would be the easiest way to expand our family. We didn't start off our journey feeling we wanted older/special needs kids. I didn't get on my soap box until I fell in love with my older, "sick" kids.

  4. When we started the adoption process I naively assumed the (healthy infant) we asked for would have on living parents. She had two - given neither of them could parent her, but I felt sick to my stomach when I found out, and had a long conversation with our social worker about weather to complete the adoption process.
    I couldn't stop thinking about how the tens of thousands we were spending on the adoption could support our daughter and her birth mother for the rest of their lives.
    My social worker told me that when women bring their babies to my agency to be adopted out they sit down with the women several times and try and figure out what could change so that they wouldn't have to put their child up for adoption. They offer education, financial support, housing, etc. She said that only 6% of the birth mothers take them up on the offer.
    I'm not sure what all this means, or if adoption is "right" or "wrong" or (most likely) somewhere in the middle.
    Thank you for such thoughtful discussion!

  5. One of my least favorite phrases in the world is the one about how if every Christian would just adopt one orphan.

    I don't think most adoptive children want to be part of a mission project. They want to be part of a family.

  6. Love this post and Susan's last two sentences! Our agency really hammered this into our minds prior to adopting - YOU ARE NOT SAVING A CHILD! I think it is a wonderful paradigm (sp?) shift that so many people need to have. I respect your take on adoption given your long line of work.

  7. Loving this post. Have been thinking about this a lot too - was planning to write about it but maybe I will just link to you instead!! :)

  8. So I read todays (yesterdays??) post and decided I'd better back up and get caught up on what I missed (don't be offended.. I've obviously missed alot lately) - so today your blog is the one I get updated with...

    I 100% agree with most everything you stated in this particular post. But here's where I think we differ. I think you've rather plainly shared why you ARE A STRONG ADOPTION ADVOCATE. You are right... it isn't being done properly.. messaging.. purposes.. .every thing... So maybe you should be an advocate the right way..?? Let's figure that out and do it!

  9. I think it's great that a lot of countries are basically becoming special needs / older child programs (even if they don't say it outright). China just announced something like that recently, and Ukraine won't even let APs apply for healthy children aged 0-3. I think there should be MORE advocating for special needs adoption so that people who are considering adoption would be more open to adopting waiting children. It makes me crazy how many thousands of families are waiting for a 'referral', while thousands of children are waiting for a family. I used to think I would adopt a healthy white "orphaned" baby from Eastern Europe, but when I actually started researching adoption, I realized there is NO need. It was an adoption advocate's blog that got me thinking about children with HIV. Regarding your statement about those of us who want to adopt babies or toddlers, there are plenty of waiting children 0-2, yes even white baby girls, if only people would open their minds to different health options, many of which are SO easily manageable. Rainbow Kids is a great website that lists all the conditions, and many of them are very doable.

  10. This is a GREAT post. Thanks so much for it! I also completely love the last two lines from Susan...just perfect.

  11. I am SO there with you on this one. People ask me about adoption all the time- our family was featured in a fairly widespread newspaper (entirely out of a desire to advocate for older child adoption) and I've gotten emails and calls and been approached by acquaintances interested in adoption. I know a lot about adoption from our personal experience and the time I've spent working behind the scenes on Ethiopian adoption ethics. But the facts I know almost never correspond with what the PAP wants to hear. The conversation usually goes something like this:

    PAP: Oh, doesn't it just break your heart how there are so many orphans waiting to be adopted? We really feel as though God is calling us to provide a family for one of these poor little children.
    Me: Uh, yeah, what age are you looking to adopt?
    Caller: Well, we'd definitely want a baby. And we already have two boys, so we'd really want a girl.
    Me: So are you open to HIV or some other special need?
    PAP: Um, gosh, I...don't think so.
    Me: Well, you should know that there are no healthy infant girls waiting in orphanages. You will actually be waiting, maybe for more than a year, for a child to come into an orphanage matching your request. But if you're interested in children waiting in orphanages, I'm happy to give you more information about that.

    The conversation usually drifts off once the person realizes that I'm NOT getting on their save-a-child bandwagon and I'm not going to get all gushy with them about double orphans languishing in orphanages when they're not actually planning to do anything about those kinds of kids.

  12. I just found you today and only wish I had read this when I stumbled through some not so well thought out words the other night...I would have just slapped a link to this post in my blog.

    Thank you (I did as you suggested and have been reading your blog from the beginning today).


About Me

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J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.