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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Red Letters Campaign- A Problem with Words (Why I'm Not Being PC)

Something has been nagging at me lately. It's been common place for many adoptive parents-to-be (of which I am one) coming down off the buzz of gorging themselves on every book, article or snippet related to adoption to start uttering phrases like "adoption isn't the answer to ______ (fill in the blank with: the aids epidemic, poverty, the orphan crisis." or "Families adopt because they want to grow their family, not to rescue a child."

But that's not going to be me. I'm not really sure I want to express my thoughts that way.

Just like many families beginning their adoption journey we struggled to gain our new language skills relating to the complex world of adoption. We had to learn the rules, so to speak, of what to say and what not to say. Even with so many of our friends being adoptive families we found it difficult at first to find the words to describe things in a way that was a right fit for our family. Even now, our family is still evolving and as things change so does the dialogue with the world around us.

I realize that in the world of adoption things are rarely ever black and white. There's a whole lotta gray and I am only beginning to get used to it. But the issue of these sort of PC phrases buzzing around is really getting under my skin. Adoption is too complex for a sound bite. It's not a one word, or even one sentence explanation. It's as varied and complex and the families represented in the adoptive community. Why then are we using these lame phrases when trying to advocate the miracle of adoption to those unfamiliar with the process?

Adoption is not THE answer but for many families it is A answer. It's their way of sharing Christ's love and the overflow of the fullness of the riches of their life while meeting the very real needs of a child by bringing them into a family, where all children belong. Flat out, for these folks adoption is their working class, soccer mom and dad, PTA way of making a difference. It is not THE answer to the global issue of aids or poverty but it is THE answer for the child who would otherwise be languishing in institutional care.

I am not sure what it is about that response that nags me. I guess it's the way in which I have heard it misused. I think that originally advocates wanted to convey the sense that all the issues of poverty and the effects of the aids epidemic creating the huge orphan crises in Africa and elsewhere could not be solved through adoption alone. Fair game. I understand that. When people talk about the numbers of children actually being adopted versus the number of children still in need the amount of work yet to be done is staggering. I believe the original intent was to keep people from growing complacent their thinking, from imagining that things were "being handled." by those trendy adoptive families riding the wave of popularity set off by the likes of various Hollywood celebrities. Perhaps the phrase was coined to dispel the sense that one could sit back and relax while the rest of the world took action. All this I understand, but somehow after I hear that phrase it feels a little to politically correct for my taste, like somehow adoption is being diminished.

I hear this statement attached, often times, to the issue of trans-racial and trans-cultural adoption. The way I look at it, being that the number of orphans is so high and all, we ought to encourage adoption, not downplay it. Adoption isn't the ideal answer but it's a good answer. The ideal answer would be that children never lose their birth parents. Adoption, may not be THE answer to end all answers. There are many questions that need to be addressed regarding adoption, but it's THE answer I give when people ask about what they can do to make a difference in the world of children in need. (Note: I don't say that they can make ALL the difference in the world, but A difference in the world.) As a follower of Christ it's my answer to James 1:22 and 1:27.

The other phrase that has me cringing lately is "the only reason why parents should adopt is because they want to grow their family." Again, I see here that this phrase was probably also born out of good intention but I have to absolutely disagree with this one. That sweeping statement and the flippant use of it is just twisted. I sense here that this statement was likely intended to counter uninformed ideals that adoptive parents are saintly, cross carrying heroes of the faith, etc. who after doing their good deed deserve thanksgiving from the community at large. Again, I totally understand the concept behind wanting to rebut that kind of thinking but my stomach is still churning. Simply growing your family should not be the ONLY reason for a family to adopt. And what's so wrong about wanting to rescue a child, other than it not being a PC thing to say?

In our own case it would be just plain false to say we chose to adopt simply because we wanted to grow our family. Not to be holier than thou, but, we did want to rescue a child. Who wouldn't. I mean really, why not?

Adoption should be based in what's BEST FOR THE CHILD! Not what is most convenient for the adoptive parents. Think about it. It would be disgusting if it were any other way. If adoption were anything other than a system intended for the less-than-ideal (compared to never needing to be adopted in the first place) but still best interest of the relinquished or orphaned child it would be nothing but some sick kind of consumerism (not that some people in the world of adoption aren't consumers of children, but that is rare........ not to mention off topic. And, don't get me started about what needs to be fixed in the system... we don't have the time or the space to debate that issue)

So yes, I do want to rescue a child, but NOT for the reason some might think. I don't want to be thought of as a hero, a saint, or spiritual giant because I most definitely am not. I just want my son rescued because every child needs to be rescued from institutional care, from loneliness, from being without parents to love and care for them. No child should be an orphan. Now, the distinction that I think needs to be made is that ''rescue' and 'fix' are two different concepts and they shouldn't be confused regarding adopting children. We don't adopt to fix kids. We pray and hope and work toward their healing but ultimately they have to choose to do some of that work themselves. Or goal in this home is to parent our children out of the overflow of what has been done for us by being adopted as children of God (see Ephesians 1:4). Our decision to adopt is rooted not in our own ability to redeem a child's life but in linking up with Christ and HIS ability to use us to meet our adopted child's needs. We have confidence not in our own ability to love but in Christ's ability to love through us, not in our own ability to heal but in Christ's.

So that's it. I'm stepping down off the soap box now. I just wanted you to know why you won't hear me using those phrases.


MLB said...

I commend you for not using those phrases. :) I have a different point-of-view having several relatives that were adopted by parents that felt they were "rescuing" the child and the results were pretty aweful.

I'm loving that you put this out there because personally, I'm sick and tired of the adoption "rules." Nobody gets to make rules for biological parents so why are their rules for adoptive parents.

Do what feels right and you can't go wrong!

Renee' said...

That is exactly how I feel! Thanks for putting it into words. That was so very well said. Thanks for giving me the courage to be "un-PC" when it comes to adoption talk!

Lee said...

My sentiments exactly - and thank you for putting it better than I ever could.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jen for sharing your thoughts. So much today is sooo much PC garbage, and I am sad that it comes to something like adoption. I know that this really irked me during our Home study too. I understand that they want to make sure that its not just a hero syndrome, bcause then the love factor is not the core motivation. Love was God's ultimate reason for rescuing us and love should be our ultimate reason for rescuing others in need - whether through adoption, sharing the gospel, feeding the homeless, or helping a family member in need etc.

luvgod2 said...

You can stand on that soap box anytime! Preach it sister - someone needs to share a more accurate view than the common PC version that is spewed so frequently and typically accepted without question.

The Montee's said...

Wow, Jen...a very articulate and interesting read. Well put.