Have you seen the movie, What to Expect When You’re Expecting? It follows the lives of five women having babies. One of the characters, played by Jennifer Lopez, is adopting. It takes her about nine months to go from home study approval to having her baby home from Ethiopia. This nine month process only happens on sound stages in Hollywood. The truth is, if you want to adopt a healthy infant from Ethiopia through a reputable agency, you’re currently looking at waiting more than three years.
To some, that doesn’t make sense. You’ve heard about the millions of orphans who need families. So why does it take so long? The answer is corruption.
Much has been written recently about corruption in the adoption world. It’s sparking a lot of good conversation. Conversation that needs to happen to make sure those of us who pursue adoption do it with our eyes wide open. When we started the process we were told we would wait 9-12 months for a referral. In fact, we were told we had to raise $15,000 in 90 days to even start the process, to prove we could do it in time because the referrals were coming so quickly. But then it slowed down. And slowed down some more. And so far we’ve been on the wait list for over two years (with a year of paper work before that). And we aren’t even waiting for a baby. Our parameters go up to four years old.
Why have we been waiting so long? Because our agency is an ethical agency. They don’t take abandoned children. “Abandoned” can mean trafficked in some countries (notice I said “can” and “some,” which does not mean “does” or “all.”) In order for our agency to refer a child to a waiting family, a family member or caretaker for that child must sign away his/her rights to that child. He/she makes that decision based on many reasons, just like birth families in the United States would make that decision for many reasons. Corruption happens when a child is taken from his/her birth family without their consent. Money exchanges hands (and not always with the birth family, but with the trafficker). This is not ok. The ideal situation is for children to stay with their families. Even those of us in the adoption process want that for children. But when the family can’t care for the child, they need a plan B. A plan B that doesn’t involve corruption.
Adoption is not an easy process. Honestly, very few things God calls us to do are easy. (Love your neighbor? Serve the church body? Repent? Give? None of those are easy.)
If you want to adopt, you study the process of adoption. You learn about domestic and foreign adoption. You find out the challenges for multi-racial families. You make a plan for how to save and raise the necessary money. You pick the best agency by asking hard questions. You educate yourself about children with HIV and other health concerns and special needs. You do hard work, hear hard stories, and read hard books.
The conversations about adoption should push us to fight against corruption, against child trafficking. But they should not talk you out of adoption.
While we wait, we are falling more in love with the country of Ethiopia. We are finding out about people and ministries who are working there, caring for widows and orphans, preaching the gospel, serving families, and/or providing medical assistance. When our child comes home to us, our love for Ethiopia won’t stop. We will continue to give to his home country. We will fight against corruption. We will mourn for his birth family.
God is using this process to change us. The wait isn’t easy, but we want to be sure our child’s birth family is choosing adoption just like we are. We want to be worthy of the sacrifice they are making. And we want to work in their home country to make sure it doesn’t happen as often as it does.
We will continue to be for adoption but against corruption. We invite you to do the same, whether you are adopting or supporting those who do. Don’t let the bad ruin the good.