I have issues.
Not me, personally (though I bet my husband would argue that!). I have issues with some things that were said at the adoption seminar we attended last night.
A third-party group, meaning that a particular agency was not "hosting" the class, put on the event. There were representatives there from foster care and private adoption - including the agent who we've chosen to do our home study - and families who could speak first-hand about their experiences with adoption.
Most of it was informative. We particularly enjoyed hearing from the adoptive parents and from our home study agent, who not only knows her stuff but who is incredibly down to earth. Joey and I both walked out of there with a better understanding of the process and more at ease knowing she would be the person asking us some of the most intimate questions about our lives. But we also walked out of there a little disturbed about some of the things said by the foster care representatives.
Foster care is something that Joey and I simply are not interested in now. It's not something that we're capable of doing with both of us working full-time jobs out of the house. I admire people who choose foster care and who are called to that service. But like other forms of building a family - IVF, adoption, etc. - it's not for all people.
Well, you would have thought these people were next in line for sainthood. At least that's how they came across. One had a dozen children, but she could barely remember all of their names. She did, however, remember their races and their illnesses, which she claimed were "not a big deal" and "didn't matter." But, let's face it: it DOES matter if that is how you identify them. It made me uncomfortable to hear her speak about them that way.
When it came time for our home study agent to speak about private adoption, they constantly interrupted her. It was like a battle of epic proportions as the poor woman tried desperately to move on and the foster care reps were busy trying to continue arguing their points/beliefs. What was initially an uncomfortable situation made me just want to bolt toward the door after the seminar was over, which is exactly what we did - as the foster care reps yelled after us, "Come next door and meet our children!" Really? First of all, as Joey pointed out, why would you invite a room full of people who find it sometimes painful to be around children because of their fertility issues to go hang out with your kids? Secondly, I'm sorry, but they are KIDS. Please don't exploit them as anomalies. I've seen plenty of children. Foster kids or former foster kids are not some kind of special exhibit to be oohed and ahhed at. I'm sure they are adorable, but it came across as though they were somehow different than other children. THEY AREN'T. If one of them came up and smacked me in the forehead, I wouldn't know if he or she was a former foster, was adopted, or was fucking born on the planet Mars.
Despite the awkwardness, all of this taught us something. Last night confirmed for Joey and I, in a sense, some of what we do and don't want to do:
- we want our child to know that he or she is adopted, BUT not be constantly reminded of it to the point where he or she perceives themselves as different
- we want to do this because we want to be parents, NOT because we want some medal of honor or extra "points" with God for doing something that - frankly - is selfish (yes, I'm admitting that we are doing this for selfish reasons... not to "save" a child)
- we want to respect the birth parents AND those who chose international adoption... at several point, there were negative "tones" used to refer to the birth parents by some folks, while others made a point to declare that there are "plenty of children here to 'rescue'" rather than adopting internationally
(And, honestly, what is with the words, "save" and "rescue"? This mentality is awfully popular, and I don't get it. It's not appropriate.)
I truly believe that most people want to pursue adoption or foster care for the right reasons - we want a chance to parent a child. We have a ton of love to give, and we want to share that love with someone else. I know that these people were not representative of every person who works in foster care, nor does what was said last night mean they aren't 1) great people and 2) great parents. I have no idea because I don't live in their homes. But I do wish people would think about what they are saying before they speak. The result is that certain words and phrases come across as insensitive and close-minded, at least in my opinion.
I know that foster care is and can be a wonderful experience. But for the people sitting in that room who have no idea what a wonderful option foster care can be, I feel sad that they left with the impression made last night.