May 03, 2011

Expanding the Family

Kristin asks:
Question for you (that I've been dying to ask, but felt it was inappropriately intrusive...Now since you've opened the door...): what are your current thoughts on expanding your family? I have lots of follow up questions, but I'll just leave it at that for now.
I sort of dread talking about this, not because it's intrusive (you're fine, Kristin!), but because it's such a loaded, sensitive topic. Opening my mouth makes me feel like the proverbial bull in the china shop of other's emotions. And family building, no matter the avenue, is so complex an issue that it's impossible to share all the small and large factors that go into a decision. Then there are the things you assume are just givens, but it turns out aren't and everyone gets riled up. But I'll give it a shot.

The truth? If adoption were just about what Todd and I wanted, I would love to adopt another child. Like, yesterday. But it's not all about us and adopting isn't a neutral act, so we're stuck between a whole lot of conflicting values and logistics.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that everything I'm about to say only pertains to me and my family. It is not about you or anyone else. This isn't a commentary on people who made different decisions or value different things. I really mean that.

That said, this is our reality:
  • We would want to adopt a Black child. It doesn't seem fair to Mari to add yet another White person to the family and we don't think we we could do transracial parenting in the way we want to do it if we had children of three different races/ethnicities. I know many families do, but we don't think we could do it well in our context.
  • There are only two local agencies that we be comfortable working with if we were to adopt again. (Well, maybe 1.5. Or 2.25. It's a nebulous thing.) They only place one or two African-American children per year, if that (which reflects local demographics), so they're not realistic options.
  • I know there are lots of agencies in other states who focus on placing African-American children (although many have race-based fee structures, which are a no-go for us).  But I'm not comfortable adopting transracially from outside of our region. We live in a really monochromatic part of the country. Even our urban centers are overwhelmingly White. I personally (Todd disagrees with me on this one) have a hard time justifying taking a Black child from a place where they would have grown up not in the minority, or less so, to raise them here. I am not at all saying there were not significant losses connected to Mari being adopted transracially. Just that this would have been her home state, regardless, and it's also where her first parents live. 
  • Private infant adoption services in the United States are market-based to a great extent. I don't think you can reduce supply/demand economics to the ultra-micro level of a single household's decision to adopt, but our choices as adopting parents are the major force in the aggregate. I'm not even sure what I'm trying to say here and I do think there is such a thing as thoughtful, ethical infant adoption. I just know that if I imagine myself saying, "Yes! Let's adopt another baby!" and initiating another adoption, it doesn't totally sit right with me and this is part of that discomfort.
If I had to guess, I'd say our permanent family is probably done now. I'm a bit sad about that. I'm also totally in love with the little four-person family we have now. It's a parallel emotion sort of thing.

Eddie really, really, really wants another sibling. One who lives with us, he often adds. He talks about it a lot.

We're still working through all our paperwork to possibly foster and I think the interview part of the home study will probably start this summer. While, should it all come to pass, that will be an expansion of our family in another sort of way, it's separate in my mind from the question of whether or not to adopt again.


meghann said...

I love your answer to this because it parallels mine. George & I have come to the conclusion that our family is done, barring some miracle of nature (which we're not expecting). And I'm a little sad about that, because I always pictured myself with a larger family than this and sometimes I still have dreams where there are more kids and I don't know what that means. But I also think the little (also four-person) family we have is perfect. It's a weird sort of conflict.

Our thoughts on adopting again also parallel yours. I don't think we would have adopted a second time had D not asked us to adopt our daughter's brother.

So basically I don't have much to add besides a high-five here. Pretty useless comment on my part. Heh.

Mama C/Catherine said...

Your response is such a poignant and helpful (in terms of clarity for me) reflection of so many issues. Wow. Just appreciating vs. only lurking...

harriet glynn said...

So complicated eh?! I dread the moment Theo asks us for a sibling. It's just not going to happen. Although, I think we could rationalize any race given we are currently a tricultural family as it is, and we live in a totally diverse part of the city and country. But I could not handle another open adoption :( I feel burned emotionally. If we were to consider it, it would be a ministry adoption or fostering (I really like that idea when Theo is a bit older especially given that a foster son or daughter can quickly become part of the family for good.) One thing I do like about the Canadian system is that there is not such thing as race-based fee structures, which is really so sickening.

On the upside, you are still young and energetic, you can wait a few years and see what emerge ;)

Alissabeth said...

I loved reading this, especially because we're in a different place on some of it than you. It's fascinating to see your very excellent thought process and so good that you are modeling being careful and intentional. Thanks for posting!

Tammy said...

Blast. I just had a lengthy comment written and now it's gone and I don't have time to re-write at this moment. Will say this... "I get what you are saying esp about being done but sad about it". I have more to say, hopefully will have time to come back later. Getting ready for a home visit with the workers for Jax's bio brother.

JC said...

Wow. You just expressed and said very well how I feel about adoption. Every single point you made, like you've been in my head! lol Both DH and I are CC. DD is Hispanic/CC/Morrocan. After everything I have read, and everything I know about the adoption industry (yes, I purposely used "industry") we will probably never use an agency again. I say "probably" only because I don't want to have to eat my words. As of now, I am 99% sure I won't be BUYING another human child.

With that said, we have our application ready to go for fostering. If a child comes up for adoption from the system, we would welcome it; but the goal is to keep families together, and I respect that. Unless, of course, it's severe abuse/trauma/etc.

On another note, I have always dreamed of moving to Seattle. Now I think that dream has been crushed. We live in a very diverse area on the east coast, but the town we live in is VERY segregated. In my mind, I guess I always assumed the crunchy Pacific-Northwest to be somewhat diverse, esp. in Seattle. Damn.

Mark said...

Thank you for great advice. We are currently looking to adapt our first baby, and your insights are really helpful. Amazing blog btw.

Kelly said...

Our family is quite blended, so race hasn't really ever come into play for us as we went down the path of foster/adoption.

The biggest concern that I have right now is age differences. My husbands oldest girls are 25, 26 and 27. My oldest daughter is almost 19, and our daughter that we adopted from foster care will be five in a month, she came home at 13 months and twelve days old.

All the girls love their little sister, that is not an issue. I just think that it would be wonderful for our daughter to have a sibling around the same age. She asks for a baby brother or sister all the time.

That is the tough part for us. The longer we debate about it, the harder it gets.

Lisa said...

Thanks for this. It kind of sums up some of our concerns, too, with adoption and agencies and such. We desperately want to adopt again, and our daughter really wants a sibling, but we are taking our time and trying to find the right agency. It's hard.

Kristin said...

Thanks, Heather, for writing about this. Learning how you and your family work through these issues is always inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Every now and then I ponder the idea of another child, but it's always with sadness because there is no way we want to adopt again. For us, it just was just too arduous and expensive a process that it has really soured us to attempt to do it again. Of course, we also have to factor our age as being a huge minus against us. Just have to find constant playmates for little guy as he adores company.

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