Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. – Khalil Gibran
If you ever have a chance to read the entire Gibran piece, it is well worth the read. I have come to use this as my mantra for parenting. For many of us adopted people, there is the universal and perpetual “why?” that never seems to satisfy with an answer. Why was I adopted? Why this family? Why me? There is no absolute answer to any of these questions. The only way I could make sense of these questions was for me to do the work that put me here. I went to work for an adoption agency to better understand how this all goes down. This much I have learned.
When you write a homestudy document for a prospective adoptive parent(s), you get to know everything – the reason they want to adopt, how they were raised, the nature of their most intimate relationships, issues with infertility, finances, debt, education, jobs, mental health, medications, crimes they’ve committed. You get to ask them follow up questions, pry, encourage them to go to therapy. You get to learn their wishes as parents, their prejudices, their blind spots, their fantasies of parenthood. You do get know these things. I did.
But what alluded me was the crystal ball and my bullshit meter was hard to calibrate for each encounter. I didn’t know what kind of parents they truly WILL be. I didn’t know the lies they kept from me or themselves, their delusions or all their fears. I had no guarantee and only their assurances to love. Is that good enough? Is good enough, good enough? Was I entitled to more? Why?
I stopped doing homestudies. I lasted less than two years. I had too many nightmares haunted by my decisions and never felt satisfied that I did enough. I wrote homestudies as if an adopted person will someday read that document. No two documents were the same, no template, no standard form where you just plug in a new name. I wrote with the expectation that I would have to account for my statement “this worker approves this family for the adoption of a child.” My documents were 12-15 pages long, longer than any one of my colleagues. I wrote tomes in hopes that I did enough. I maintained relationships with many of my families, still to this day.
Writing homestudies and preparing families for adoption is not for the feint of heart nor simply for the “do gooders.” I commend the many who continue to do this work with integrity. I know many who are incredible social workers willing to challenge and unwaveringly counsel people on the realities of adoption. There are workers who push, prod, challenge and provoke in advocating for that child yet to be. They are the very same workers who have the courage to say no, they will not move forward and place a child in their arms. I also know that it is nearly an impossible task to “not approve” someone. How could I prove someone was going to be a racist toward their
child? Is a mother unfit to mother because she still took 4mg of paxil? When getting the baby is perceived as a fundamental right of anyone, an entitlement, how do we make sure they really really get it?
I don’t believe in living in fantasy. To not have adoption in this world is living in fantasy. But I do believe we can do it with more openness, with integrity. But it is not just up to the workers to ferret out the truth. Not when we get told that this should be our calling, that we should move mountains to make parenting a reality, that we should alter the truth to bend the rules a country establishes because “those are antiquated rules that don’t apply to us.” It is up to the people who wish to be parents too. To be a mother or father is a gift to give the possibility of life to another. I wish more would honor that sentiment.
My profession has A Code of Ethics, a Council on Accreditation, the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, The UN Rights of a Child, licensing bodies, background checks, fingerprinting, anonymous reference letters. The quality agencies, attorneys and facilitators have parents come to groups, have them meet adult adoptees, have individual sessions, do long home visits pre and post adoption. We have watchdog organizations, advocacy organizations and hundreds of adoptees challenging for truth. And it still does not feel like enough. It all feels like bandaids covering up what we don’t push oursleves to see. I keep wondering where does it begin?
I am beginning to think that it begins with a wish. A wish to have a child of one’s own and how that wish gets fulfilled makes all the difference.