I recently had the incredible misfortune of reading an article online (sent to me by an appalled friend) that was penned by an adult adoptee. This adult adoptee is a bitter young woman who is angry about being "snatched from her culture, language and homeland" by her wealthy, white adoptive parents. She goes on to lament a lifetime of LOOKING Asian and not BEING Asian. She felt she never fit in anywhere. She was a perfect, chubby, beautiful baby the day her parents boarded the plane to Korea. She was not, however, an orphan. After much research and several trips back to her native country (and years learning the language), the author of this article discovered living parents, aunts, uncles, full-blooded siblings and an entire village built around her lineage. This is one of the saddest adoption stories I have ever read. It's sad on several levels. First, the author never felt fully embraced by her adoptive family, she was always left with an empty ache of needing to find where she truly belongs. Second, she turned out to be right. She was not a true orphan. She was the spawn of a young, unmarried girl who later went on to marry the baby's father and build a life with him. But who knew?
Adoption is laden with miry ethical issues that are often swept aside by parents longing for the warmth and responsibility of a baby. Adoptive parents sometimes don't know the full story. Under the Hague Convention, a "true orphan" is a child who is either:
1. one of parents who are deceased
2. a child who has been legally, voluntarily surrendered by biological parents
3. a child who has been declared neglected and abandoned by the court system
The young woman in the story was none of these. She was taken to a clinic by a distant relative and left there. Her anguished mother searched for her for months.
The relative felt he was doing the mother a favor and, in time, she would see the gift she was given in being unfettered.
Why am I, a four-time international adoptive parent, even discussing such a sensitive topic? Why would I want to put something into print that might make a family second guess the decision to adopt? Because it is VITAL to the future health of your family and your adopted child to be careful when adopting. A child who's parents are deceased should have solid evidence in his paperwork of such. A child who has been legally surrendered should have surrender paperwork (ours even includes the thumbprint from the surrendering parent. I look at these prints often and, for some reason, they are extra precious). A child declared abandoned by the courts will have a long paper trail of attempts to locate birth family, court appearances, and that child will likely be OLDER because it takes time to properly execute a search for a parent who, may not even know their child is on the fast-track out of the country.
Your best chance of being certain that you are adopting a true orphan is to adopt from a "Hague Convention Country". These countries have agreed to abide by rules that decrease the likelihood of child trafficking. They are agreed that beautiful babies "found in a park" might just have more to their stories.
The draw back? Many children from Hague Convention Countries are older children. They have had to wait for documents and signatures to complete their files. Those surrendered directly at birth by parents are not as plentiful and families who feel they need a small, healthy infant must wait a long time in a Hague Country, for a match.
Yes, The Philippines is a Hague County. They are transparent in all their paperwork, fees and timelines, in my experience. The children offered there for adoption are "true orphans". In fact, our agency just received a new batch of files of waiting children. No. There are no tiny babies there (several toddlers, though) but there ARE gorgeous sibling groups. There are children who have waited a long time to be claimed as sons and daughters. There are kids there who my family MET IN PERSON and fell in love with on the last trip to The Philippines. Uh oh . . . (ha ha) yes, there's one little five year old boy on that list who is a heart-stealer. He has some special needs but those only serve to make him CUTER, in my humble opinion.
Are you considering adding to your family through adoption? Please consider a true orphan. PLEASE consider a Hague Convention Country. Adoption is a slow and painful test of patience no matter which route you take but a true orphan from a Hague Country may help your family, in the long run, to avoid some of the doubts and heartache that come with a child who knows, deep in her heart, that she had another life where she was someone's treasure. Kids know. Even young children. Somehow, they know. I believe God placed a sense in us, of where we belong. Is there a true orphan out there who belongs with you?