Living at a baby home, you see many children come and go. This week, an amazing couple from America, who are currently living and working in Arusha, Tanzania adopted Happy (now named Zara Grace). This couple has been in the process of adoption for a year and a half and being able to finally bring Happy home is more than a dream come true. Congratulations Hannah and Zack! Cacey and I hope you keep in touch!!!
Living in the world where adoption is a very common topic of conversation, it is tempting to discuss which children you personally would "choose" to bring home with you. Last week, I had an interesting thing happen where this hypothetical conversation became a little bit more real (A LITTLE BIT).
While working in the tiny baby house, the father of the twins Brian and Briton (age seven months) came to visit. I first want to say that at the baby home, I DO NOT have favorites, however, Brian and Briton melt my heart. While talking to Brian and Briton's dad, he told me he wanted me to have Brian and take him home with me to California. Inside, I was screaming, "OKAY!" but my response was, "You can't separate Brian and Briton."
He replied, "Okay, then you take both of them to California."
Again, inside screaming, "OF COURSE I WILL!" but I knew this was not the "right" thing to do. After about an hour of conversation, I convinced their dad that he needed to be a responsible dad and take care of his children because they are AMAZING, ADORABLE, SMART, HAPPY, etc etc boys that deserve to be with their father.
(but MAN I wish I could take them!)
At the baby home there are children who have been abandoned and have no family whatsoever. These children can be adopted. There are also children whose mom's died during childbirth, but they have a father or other relative who can care for them and will go back to them when they are a little older. These children are not up for adoption. There are also children at the baby home whose mothers are psych patients and are unable to care for them. However, because they have a relative that is alive (although in a hospital), they cannot be adopted and will therefore live in an orphanage until they are adults.
This brings me to the topic of relinquishment. When a parent or relative is still alive, they have the option of relinquishing their child. This basically means they give up their rights as parent to Social Welfare and turn them over to whoever is going to adopt the baby. Now, in the case of children whose mothers are psych patients, relinquishment is of course ideal so the child does not remain in an orphanage forever. However, in the case of Brian and Briton for example, is relinquishment really the best thing?
Why would relinquishment be a "good" thing?
1. In the case of children of parents with psych issues
2. A life in America would award the child more opportunities than in Africa
3. In a place like America, for example, the child has a much lower risk of getting a disease and/or even dying from something like malaria or HIV.
4. If an individual from a Western nation is unable to adopt because of laws like having to live in Tanzania for three years, adopting a relinquished child is "better" than adopting no child in the sense that this child will be loved and cared for.
Why wouldn't relinquishment be a "good" thing?
1. You are taking a child from relatives that love and care about the child
2. You are taking a child from his or her culture
3. This child has a family and someday they will want to know who their family is and why you took him/her away from them.
4. There are other children out there who have no family and need to be adopted
5. In a way, you are taking advantage of an individual's (the biological parent) ignorance. Most people here do not understand the concept of adoption and the thought that their child could go to America sounds like a dream to them. They most likely don't understand that this means their child will never come home again.
6. The adopted parent may experience a high sense of guilt for reason #5.
7. There are different standards of living in this world. Just because we consider the lifestyle of an African individual to be a lower standard of living than our own doesn't mean that it's not good enough or that the people here are not happy. They are happy and taking them away from that isn't necessarily fair.
8. If the laws, such as staying in the country for three years for example, are turning you toward relinquishment, you can always adopt a child from another country, such as Ethiopia where the adoption process is shorter.
The concept of relinquishment is difficult for me to wrap my head around. On one hand, people can fall in love with a child and "walking away" from them is extremely difficult (trust me) knowing you can give them an amazing life with you. However, is it right to take them from their family, from their culture? Is it selfish almost? I don't know.
Take Brian and Briton for example. Their dad gave them away to a complete stranger (me) after knowing me for only an hour. Is he really going to give them the love they need and deserve when they go back to him? Is that fair to them? But is it fair to deny them their true and natural family and their wonderfully rich culture? I really don't know.
Let me know your thoughts.