Sex, Race, Religion you choose
Do you want to give a home to a boy or a girl, an Asian child or an African? Do they have to be Jewish? Brown or white? Millions of children are in need of loving families and your child is waiting for you.
In international adoption there is a certain amount of flexibility when finding your child to complete your family. If you have very specific criteria, it obviously narrows the field, which may increase the time you are waiting. Adoption is for life and it is very important that you are patient and very sure that you find a child that right for your family.
I was in the office of the Ministry of Education in St Petersburg in 2004 having a meeting with the senior staff, regarding the whole adoption process. The Head of the department said to me in no uncertain terms "It is not in our interests if you are not 100% happy with the choice of your child, you must take as long as you like to find her or him. It is very important that you must be happy with the child you are adopting." It serves no one's interests if you are not.
So it may feel a little non PC, to state really clearly that you want to have a child that has the same skin tones as you, or the same religion or be a boy; but it is important that you are very clear about this. This is going to be your child forever and adoption is complicated enough, without underlying doubts. Discuss the possible choices throughly, visualize what criteria you perceive 'ideal' , and then work back from there. You will find that with close examination, there may actually be some strict criteria that you are not going to be flexible about.
Although I came to adoption through the desire to give one of the hundreds of thousands of Russia children a home, it was important to me, as a single parent, that I did not have too many issues to deal with. Therefore, the same skin tone immediately made life a little easier.
I need to give you a word of 'warning' though.....in the adoption community we believed that children actually choose the parents! Your child will find you! And you must be open to this possibility. You may have your heart set on a little daughter and think and plan in pink - when suddenly you find yourself referred the cutest boy you have ever set you eyes on, who simply steals your heart.
You will know when you meet your child that it is your child, despite your best efforts to 'design' your family. So be open to all possibilities.
One choice that you do have in adoption, is the gender of your child. In fact, during the Home Study process, you are expected to state the gender of the child you are hoping to adopt and you will be assessed with that gender in mind. Girls, for some reason, seem to be more popular in international adoption, with the result that in some countries you may have to wait longer to be referred a girl. There is the perceived idea that a girl will be 'easier' then a boy, but evidence has not borne this out - each child is an individual, and you may find a little lad who has no issues and a girl who is complex. Early adoptions were from China and most of those children are female, due to the political situation of the country. This may have had a lingering effect in the minds of international adopters.
If you are happy for either gender, this is also possible and will, of course, make things easier for you as you have broadened your criteria. It may make the process quicker as you will then be offered the next available child be it girl or a boy.
For some families it is paramount that the children that they adopt will be of their faith. This will obviously direct you to the countries that you will adopt from.
In Muslim counties there is no adoption as such but a legal form of guardianship, where you care for the child and treat as your own, except in the case of name and inheritance. More can be found here.
Many faiths have an obligation to orphans, and you will find that many orphanages are run by religious bodies. It makes sense that the children from those institutions are likely to have been bought up in the same faith. In other institutions, religion may not have entered the doors and in some, depending on the director, a faith is blessed on the children. The orphanage director at my son's orphanage invited the Russian Orthodox priests to come and baptise the children. She was horrified when they charged the orphanage the equivalent of £6 per child!
I value all faiths, so it was not important to me that my child had already been baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and strangely we are fortunate enough, to have a Russian Orthodox Church in our neighbourhood. For some parents though, they want their child to adopt their faith and they then, if the child already has been given a faith, will go about ensuring that officially the children is bought into their religion.
Some families are touched by the situation of children in some counties and want to adopt them regardless of their nationality, ethnic group, colour of their skin, religion. Families created through international adoption have many different permutations. Mixed race families being one of them.
You must be aware of potential difficulties that may arise if your child obviously looks totally different from you. For one, there will always be the questions of adoption. It will be the assumption and the curiosity of adults and children alike, who will be drawn to you with what could be probing questions. If you are likely to feel uncomfortable with talking about adoption, you may have to reconsider this option. You must also be prepared to speak continuously to your child about race and racism in age appropriate language. In the beginning, with a little toddler, you may see no problem, but you must be able to project into the future and see the pre-teen being bullied on the school grounds. Thus, you have to build up a robust character who has strong self-esteem and who will roll with the punches.
'Racism' exists everywhere even in nuclear families. It is not unheard of for mothers to feel prejudice against their own mixed race birth children and to abuse them for this reason. This is not only between black and white. I spoke to a woman whose husband refused to consider adopting from her birth country because 'he didn't like the people'. I have also over heard a dad, talking to his mixed race wife, not to buy a black doll for their daughter (mixed race) because "it might encourage her to fall in love with a black person".
These issues of race and ethnicity run very deep and the subject must be honestly broached and fervently discussed. I think one could possible think of 101 possible scenarios and events and there will be always one more that your never thought of. There is no depth to human prejudices - even from those that you feel you know the best.
It is possible to adopt siblings, as long as you have been approved to adopt siblings by the social services and your chosen country allows it. Social services are not too keen on it because they feel that you will not have enough time to devote to each child, but if you put forward a good case then they are open to accessing you, with that in mind.
If you are wanting to have siblings, and can handle two arriving at the same time, it does help with the costs but the waiting time frame may be longer.
Many people have come home with two young children under 3 years old.
There is also, in adoption, the possibility of adopting two children who are unrelated - this is called virtual siblings or in some cases virtual twins. Monica and Fred were waiting to adopt siblings from Ethiopia and time was running out for their documents. They were thinking of changing to adopt one child, when they got 'the call' for two children - one of 5 weeks old, the other 7 weeks old - they are virtual twins.
Penny and Joe, on the other hand ,really wanted a big family and decided to adopt siblings, but the wait was too long for them so they opted to adopt a single child now, with the view to go on and adopt another later. When their little F came home, he was enough to complete their family and now they are a happy family of three. Penny says that she is glad that it worked out like that, as she is not sure whether she could have bought up two children at the same time.
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