What’s Wrong With Adoption in Australia?

I’m so overwhelmed by everyone’s feedback following my last post. It’s astounding to me that so many of you are actually making the time to read my ranty rants amongst your busy lives. It’s just so touching – I can’t really describe how supported it makes me feel. Thank you.

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As promised I am sticking to the topic of adoption this week as it is National Adoption Awareness Week here in Australia.

It would seem that I am quite a slow learner because I bothered to read the comments left on yesterday’s Herald Sun article featuring Deborra-Lee Furness. There is just so much negativity around adoption! I mean I definitely think an honest dialogue about adoption is absolutely necessary, but it just has to be constructive – adoption is not blanket “good” or blanket “bad”. Just as there are some biological families that don’t get it right, there are adoptive parents that don’t either, but this doesn’t make the whole concept wrong or evil.

The reality is that adoption always involves suffering. For an adoption to occur, there has to have been some form of breakage or separation first. This is, of course, not an ideal situation at all, but as we know we don’t live in an ideal world. Adoption, in my humble opinion, can be a beautiful pathway towards restoring what was lost, like healing a wound though the scar may remain. It’s for this reason I believe it should be embraced and celebrated.

To be honest I’ve re-written parts of this post so many times now, trying to balance directing my thoughts at the (very vocal) anti-adoption lobby, and just sharing my own honest feelings and experience. It’s hard because the whole topic is so complex; what goes for local adoption may not be relevant to intercountry and so on. But at the end of the day I think to most people it’s pretty obvious – every child deserves to grow up in a family.

In fact a rule of thumb is that for every three months a child resides in an orphanage, they lose one month of development. It is well documented that institutionalisation is detrimental to the physical, social, and psychological well-being of children. I am planning to talk more about my time in orphanages and my passion for family reunification and community-based solutions to orphan care later, but the bottom line is that we should be ensuring that children grow up within families. Adoption is one way to make this happen.

Except… The Australian government doesn’t seem too keen on this. Last year there was less than 150 inter-country adoptions for the whole of Australia, despite thousands of hopeful couples. This is not because there are no orphans in the world, but rather because we have an outdated and clunky system designed to discourage adoption at every turn, even local adoption.

Believe it or not, but you can’t be on both local and inter-country adoption lists at once, even though the process is likely to take years. And, in Victoria at least, you can’t do any reproductive treatments while waiting to adopt. All in all it makes for a very frustrating and heartbreaking situation where both children and potential parents miss out. There just has to be change soon.

Thank you Deborra-Lee and Hugh for your advocacy work 🙂

As Deborra-Lee says in the article: “The system is broken here. There are children who need families and we need a system that works.” It’s my hope that by sharing my personal journey, a greater awareness of the need for reform is gained.

x

Haters Gonna Hate

Image courtesy of Feministing.com

Image courtesy of Feministing.com

A few years ago, in a fit of rage, I slammed out this Facebook post for all my friends and family to see. The response I received was so overwhelmingly supportive that it ignited the idea to write this blog. Of course I was lazy and it took me a couple of winters and a healthy dose of unemployment to actually start, but to everyone who commented on this the first time around I can’t thank you enough. Your encouragement has helped me to press on despite every ounce of me wanting to give up on the whole stupid, impossible dream.

I’ve decided to share it again today because it still adequately reflects how I feel, and it helps to show some of the stigma surrounding adoption and ‘infertiles’ here in Australia.

I should also mention that since I first wrote this rant the Ethiopian adoption program in Australia that we had been waiting on has been shut down. Years of waiting down the drain, another door slammed shut in our faces…

June 2011
Adoption, Infertility and I’m ANGRY right now!

It’s late, and I know I should be going to bed right now and not rambling on facebook, but something has just got me shaking and I’m considering this as my way of expelling bad energy before sleep time.

For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Lady Breaks and I can’t have kids. As fifteen year olds, we used daydream and fantasise about our future children, naming them and imagining what they would look like. Fast forward to our first year of marriage five years later and we were ready to turn our dreams into reality. Except it didn’t happen. Sludge through another six seven years of appointments, IVF, and the looooong road to adoption, and you’ll get to where we are today.

Anyway, by and large, I’m excited about the future, and I feel like I’ve loved and longed for my future child for the best part of the last 12 13 years. Adoption is something we can’t wait to do, we research it constantly, and are making every effort to ensure that we are able to provide our child with all that she/he needs to develop a strong identity, with a powerful connection to their culture. We even already have a collection of children’s books about adoption.

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But this journey certainly hasn’t been easy, in fact it has been incredibly unbelievably painful – but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, sometimes little things still catch me off guard, like someone complaining about having kids when I would do anything to have that problem, or the sheer length of adoption waiting times. So tonight I was having a little downer with myself in the car, asking God why on earth He made Mr. Lady Breaks and I infertile when we would love our kids so so much? What was the point to all this? It wasn’t fair, blah, blah, blah.

And then I got home.

Like any other good Gen Y-er I checked my facebook and I clicked through to this article about adoption in Australia.

And the article itself is really quite good and just what kind of information needs to get out there. But then I read the comments…*

Now, I know so many of you are amazingly supportive of our adoption journey and eagerly anticipate the day we adopt alongside us. In fact many of you are so supportive that you probably don’t realise there is a whole other side to the story that us ‘infertiles’ have to deal with. That stuff is thoughts like this:

  • It is time adoption was outlawed. Adoption requires the taking of a baby from its mother to satisfy the wants of adopters. It is a very selfish act. If you cannot have a baby of your own then you are not entitled to one from someone else.. It is time people looked at the history of adoption in Australia and come to realise that very few babies were willingly handed over to adopters. They were stolen. The majority of adoptions between 1950 – 1975 were illegal. It is time people realised this and accept that they cannot have a child and get on with it.
  • Adopters do not have the right to someone else’s infant. It is interesting that Mother’s rights are not mentioned in this article just the infertiles desire for a healthy fresh-out-of-the-womb infant.
  • It would be wonderful if people stopped referring to parents as birth parents of Bio parents. These titles are rubbish. You have one set of parents. The ones who created you, then you have adoptive parents. They are the ones who look after you when you are adopted but they are never ever your actual parents. It would be appreciated if people would stop calling mothers these names.

Anyway, that’s just a taster. If you want to see more, go to any adoption video on YouTube – most have comments on them saying that they have stolen a baby, bought a baby, ruined a life, etc., etc.

As many of you know, I have spent time in countries with an enormously high percentage of orphans – many of whom will grow up in institutions or worse. In Kenya alone it is estimated that 300 babies are abandoned every single day. I am not suggesting intercountry adoption is the only answer, far from it! Of course, a child’s indigenous culture will be the best answer for them. However, until adequate foster and orphan care systems are in place, intercountry adoption has to remain an option for the sake of the children.

I do believe very strongly in the absolute importance of ensuring the child’s culture is ingrained in their lives, and yes, I won’t be able to do it as well as their birth mother in their home country would. But the situation isn’t perfect, and no amount of telling me I’ll always be second best at it will change that. There are children whose parents simply cannot or do not want to raise them. There are children without parents at all. We are a couple who can. More than that, we love love them already, just as I imagine a mother expecting a baby would. Only our pregnancy has gone on for years and years.

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I acknowledge that some of you will read this and agree with what the commenters are saying, and you have every right to do that. You may believe that no matter which way I try and spin it, adoption will never be the same as “having your own” (<—HATE those words). All I can say to you is that for me and my husband, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE. Our love for our future child is just as valid and as real as yours.

So, after a very long ramble that I’m not sure anyone will even read, I think I know why God made us infertile. And, what’s more I’m thankful for it. I, unlike many others, will get to say to my beautiful child, I longed for you with every fibre of my being for years and years and years. I knew how perfect you were before I met you and I conquered every obstacle placed before me to get to you. That’s how much you are worth to me.

x

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* Comments on article have since been removed

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The Adoption Option

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Generally speaking, after I’ve bored some poor stranger’s ear off about not being able to procreate, they will think for about 5 seconds and then casually say: ‘So why don’t you just adopt then?’ And we laugh and laugh and I will fill out some paperwork and 6 months later I’ll have a baby in my arms.

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Yep… Except this isn’t my dream world. This isn’t America either. And it’s not England or France or basically any other country in the world. It’s Australia, and in Australia adoption is a dirty word. In Australia you are dissuaded from adoption at every turn and treated like a criminal for even considering it. It’s costly, taxing on your emotions and relationships, and it takes years, and years, and years. And years.

Now, to be fair, we do have a fairly bad track record with adoption and care institutions for children here. You don’t have to be a history scholar to recognise the devastating injustice of the Stolen Generation and the British Child Migrant schemes. There are also horrific stories of children stolen from their impoverished families in developing countries and sold to wealthy families in the West. There were forced adoptions. There are stories of children growing up disconnected from their birth countries and identities. There are stories of children who are abused within their adoptive families. All in all it makes for a pretty bad case for adoption.

So, rightly so, a lot of red-tape and bureaucracy has been put in the way to mitigate these risks. I guess the thinking is that it will weed out the potential child abusers and only keep the desperadoes that are willing to wait up to ten years and spend their life savings. You are told adoption is a selfish, self-centred decision. You are told that there are no orphans in the world. You are branded incompetent parents at best, and criminal at worst. You are callously removed from lists you have waited years on because of a change of policy.

But this kind of thinking is so wrong. This kind of thinking means that children miss out on having families. Adoption can be a beautiful, life-changing, sacrificial, and wonderful thing – I’ve seen it in families who have adopted around me, and I’ve heard it from friends who are adopted themselves. There definitely should be a process, and checks and balances need to be in place, but it has to be done with more humanity than it currently is.

As potential adoptive parents we studied the history and culture of the place we intended to adopt from, we set up a nursery, we read books on adoption and attachment parenting, we bought toys and storybooks, we put safety locks on cupboards, I painted pictures for the room. We eagerly awaited and longed for our child’s arrival… And six years after my initial enquiry, we are no closer to adopting at all.

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Adoption is something that needs to be celebrated and embraced by Australia. We can do much much better than this. Next week is National Adoption Awareness Week and I will be sharing more of our journey towards adoption.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ Lady Breaks on facebook!

Welcome to Lady Breaks!

Nakuru

Lady Breaks is something that I have wanted to do for a really long time, and for so many reasons.

While I’ve often been paralysed by the thought of joining the never-ending league of Millennials who have begun narcissistic blogs about their super-interesting or struggle-town lives, I’ve decided that maybe my journey can help someone out there.

Somewhat inspired by Nick Vujicic’s TEDx talk, and the incredible woman behind Pharaoh’s Page, I am deciding that through my struggle and suffering, perhaps I can offer someone else hope.

Over the years I have received a number of private messages from courageous friends in the throes of infertility, loss, IVF, depression and so on. It is my guess that for every brave person who is able to reach out for help, there must be many that can’t. I also guess that there are many people who may have never been personally affected by these topics but would love to know more. I want to bridge that silence.

You may or may not know this but October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and November is Adoption Awareness Month. I wanted the release of Lady Breaks to hinge on these two powerful initiatives aimed at breaking down the barriers and stigma surrounding baby loss and adoption.

Finally, Lady Breaks does confront some hard and deeply personal struggles, but it is not about creating a sad-and-sorry-sob-fest. It’s about realistically sharing what it means to crawl through the darkest valleys, and if it’s possible to find hope and meaning there.