The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and distortion and learn the truth about the world,
then to organize and act to change it. That's never been impossible and never been easy. ~Noam Chomsky

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Adoption Truth Part III: Adopting Again

Let's get this show on the road, yes?
I'm sorry for the long delay in posting. I was in Haiti. Again.

Thank you for reading, commenting and reposting parts I and II. Your comments, even when questioning, were so full of grace. I try to remember to give more grace when I am the recipient of so much.

Thank you for recognizing that the stories I'm telling here are glimpses. Snapshots. Thoughts in time. They can never be our full story and will never reveal more about our daughter or son than we think is acceptable to share publicly (which we recognize is walking a very fine line.) It is a thin line that I'm walking only because I believe with my whole heart that truth and light can dispel darkness and create change.


Adoption Truths Part III: Adopting Again

If we were so concerned with Ariam's mother's story, why on earth did we start a second adoption?

In fall of 2011, while we were still putting together puzzle pieces of Ariam's story and wondering if this story was an anomaly, we began to discuss a second adoption. We sorted through our desires, a potential second child's needs, Ariam's needs, and all of the options for expanding our family.

I think that whether you have adopted or not you will probably resonate with our reasons for adding a second child to our family.

Reason 1 - we wanted children, plural. We wanted to be a family and we wanted Ariam to have a brother or sister. We did not want to rescue a child, be "saviors" in the eyes of our community, or do some act of charity. It is a selfish reason to adopt - wanting a child. But if done right, there is actually no better reason, in my opinion, to adopt than *wanting* a child. Wanting to be family for and with a child.

Reason 2 - We didn't want Ariam to be the only person of color in our entire family. We were reading more writings from teen and adult adoptees and unanimously they felt that being the "only one" (adopted, with special needs, different ethnicity, whatever the case) was hard. Uncomfortable. An extra burden.

I won't forget the day we were with our extended family in a restaurant, all of us white as white can be, and I realized that all eyes in the restaurant were on Ariam. Talking, laughing, animated. She didn't seem to notice. But I did. And I don't want that for her. I want her to have siblings with whom she can share this unique experience of being adopted in a transracial family.

The day we told Ariam that she would be a big sister to a little boy she asked "will he be chocolate like me?" (She was 2.5 and still thinking of skin as a color not a race or ethnicity yet.) I know her well enough to know that she would love any baby. But her reaction to the knowledge that yes, her brother would look like her, was confirmation to me that we had made the right decision for our family. And for our children.

Throughout the year she has checked in on this with us. "Will he be brown like me mom?" "Is he definitely going to have black hair like me?" "He and I will be the same just like Mia and her sister are the same and like Roan and her brother are the same!"

She has never wavered in her love for this little brother. Across time and space, across more than a year of her young life, through confusion and delays and questions he has been the dream she holds most dearly.

(Transcribed by her preschool teacher. We have dozens of these type of letters.)

There have been moments in recent months when we have thought we would need to break it to Ariam that this little brother of hers, held so close to her heart, would not be coming to live with us.

We made the hardest decision I think any adoptive parent has to make (and yet at the same time this seems like something so very basic and obvious to anyone who is not adopting!) We needed to find out if this little boy's living birth parent had been coerced to relinquish him for adoption.

We are waiting for the end of this story. It is not quite finished yet. (Sometimes truth, when dealing with cross cultural communication, requires the allowance of time and patience.)

I hope to share more of this journey with you at some point in the near future. Not because I have any interest in exposing our most personal fears, stories, or our child's life details with the internet community at large. But because this entire story sheds light on aspects of adoption, agencies that masquerade as "Christian" and the dangers of group think that we all need to be more diligent in discussing and working to change.

And because we have come to this exhausting but liberating realization..
until we can lay down our hopes, dreams, desires, image of our family, and even the child we hope will be ours on the alter of truth, we will never actually be capable of fully seeing truth or acting on it. (This is the hardest realization I have ever come to. Ever. It should be so simple, but it is not.)


“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” -- Bonhoeffer

We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it reality. -Dallas Willard

For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are. ~C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew


  1. With you on this difficult journey, and sending everyone (here and in Haiti) energy, patience, discernment, truth, respect, and love.

  2. Hugs to you and yours, sweet friend. Yes, we adopted because WE WANTED CHILDREN, not for purely selfless reasons. I don't think adoption can work if it's just for altruistic purposes. That is a truth that didn't make sense to me until we were in the midst of life with our boys.

    1. agree, agree, agree! One of my favourite quotes on the subject - no idea who from, unfortunately - is 'you can only rescue a child once. After that, it's just called parenting'. And surely, the parenting has to be the whole point of this adoption thing, otherwise we're turning our kids into some kind of weird charity project. Keep the truth coming, friend!

  3. Wow . . . that Bonhoeffer quote is radical. Absolutely radical. What a challenge in the face of . . . everything.

  4. Your reasons for adopting again are quite similar to ours. Thank you for speaking out for finding the truth, but more importantly, putting action behind your words in a way that is so painful and complicated. It is a brave choice, and it is the right choice, and too few people choose it. I pray peace for all of you, especially Ariam, whatever comes to pass.

  5. Ariams letters to her baby brother choke me up. :(

  6. Amanda - you and Jer have more courage than I could ever hope to have. I am profoundly moved by your story and the integrity in which you have approached each of your adoptions.

  7. I think it's amazing when people like you go in and do the dirty work to make sure that your child really needs to be adopted, knowing that your heart might be broken. That should be applauded.

    I agree that we need to make sure coercion had no role in relinquishment. But I think sometimes we forget that the situations are SO different from anything we would encounter here that we expect to encounter the perfect scenario in adoption and it's not going to happen.

    I'm not expressing my thoughts very well and I'm afraid I'm doing myself and your story a great disservice.

    What I mean is this - if I got pregnant here and was a single woman and decided not to parent, there would be a general understanding that I was likely not coerced. It happens here, more than we want to think about, but it is generally understood when I saw that positive sign on the pregnancy test I *knew* that I had resources available to me. It would be a rough but not impossible road ahead of me. The chances of me ever having to watch my child wither away and die from HIV or TB or an undiagnosed heart defect or any other preventable disease or lack of clean water or starvation are basically non existent.

    But that's not the reality in so many places around the world. So while direct coercion may not have been involved in the manner of someone actually saying "give us your child and we'll give you (money/food/education for your other children/housing/whatever)" there is always going to be some level of knowledge there. There is always going to be some level of desperation. You don't abandon your child in a market in China or outside a bank in Uganda or on a stair in Haiti or in the hospital in Russia if you have a good, safe, sustainable life to provide for them. (ALTHOUGH - direct coercion DOES happen. People DO need to make sure that isn't the case with their adoption before they bring their child home. I'm not dismissing that.)

    That's not to say we don't need to stop coercion at an individual level with adoption. I'm not saying that at all. But fraud in adoption, and coercion, and the depth of poverty and the things it has stolen from our children and the generations of children before them - it's all so much deeper and murkier.

    1. I feel like I'm saying you're wasting your time investigating your adoptions - please know I would NEVER say that. I think EVERYONE should investigate their adoptions. But you might find that your child doesn't cleanly fit what you thought. You might find that you thought your child was a double orphan but instead has two living birth parents who simply cannot or do not want to parent. So should they have been adopted? That's where the murkiness comes in...

    2. Absolutely agree on the murkiness! I don't think there is any clean fit perfect or ideal adoption story. It is so complex. I think we each have to make choices we feel we can live with and that our child can live with as an adult.

    3. EXACTLY! And then that's where the ugliness comes in with the adoption community (in my experience).

      I still think it's incredibly admirable of you to be going this bravely against the grain in the adoption community to make sure that everything is right for your sweet boy. And for you to be so open about it - it's amazing. You are amazing.

  8. Truth requires deep examination and truth tellers ... (denial and refusing to see if much less painful!) Sometimes being one of the few that fight for truth and seek to bring light to darkness means laying it all down - and at great personal risk.

    I'm inspired by truth tellers and risk takers and you guys are both. Love your precious family so much.

    1. oops. I meant, refusing to see IS much less painful. Sorry for the typo.

  9. I do understand, for I too had to research and know the whole story of my children's families, to make sure there was no other way besides adoption for them. With my foster children that was easier. With my Haitian children I met the birth parents and talked with them through a translator, then had a missionary research the families and send pictures from their family album of their home, their relatives, their baby pictures and stories. Only then could my heart rest almost easy, but for the children the wrenching is hard, since they were all older and remembered their first families. I do understand. I also had troubles with my agency, who when I took my child from a disrupted adoption, saving their reputation, demanded full fees and reimbursement of support while she was in the orphanage and held her birth certificate, needed for the adoption, as collateral to get the money they really weren't owed from me. it was so wrong, but I did what I had to do to get the money and give it to them to get the birth certificate for her.

  10. I posted last night but it appears that it has been lost :( I wanted to let you know that we too went through a long and painful adoption- 3 1/2 years to bring our daughter home from Haiti, 8 trips back and forth during those long years, difficult agency,attorneys, orphanage, etc., etc. I feel your pain...and my heart aches for you. All I can say is follow your heart and do what is right for your son. Only you know what that means. In our case, we reached a point where we were forced to make decisions that could have jeopardized everything with our adoption, but if we hadn't acted immediately, our daughter could still be there waiting. We did what we had to do, we demanded a certain level of competency and respect for both her and for us as her legal parents. In our case, it worked out well and God was with us every step of the way. Keep prayers are with you and your sweet family.


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