When my husband and I chose international adoption, it never crossed our minds that we were in any way serving as global peace ambassadors. Frankly, after months of international, federal, state, and local background checks, it felt more like we’d made the usual suspects list of an international neighborhood watch program.
When the big day finally arrived for us to pick up our daughter, boarding the plane was a big tip-off that in a few short hours we’d be setting foot on her home turf—a country away—but that would be that, right?
We’d slosh through the legal system, soak in local customs, just say no to unwashed fruit, and avoid playing into the stereotypical “loud Americans” role before making our way home without much fanfare—well, so far as is possible for two newbie parents and an infant.
Like us, what I think many international adoptive families don’t anticipate is the lingering bond they will feel toward their child’s birth country (unwashed fruit and all).
They travel to this foreign country and come away with a lot: the silly, scary, inspirational stories they will share for years to come, and a new bond with other adoptive families who also found themselves finding their family a world away.
But more important, families who adopt internationally draw from these experiences and gain a greater feel for the sense of the loss these countries must experience when they lose children to international adoption. And they come to understand that all people—across borders and laws and languages—are more alike than different.
Three significant ways international adoption promotes peace between nations include:
1. Finding Families for Children.
In 2015, Orphan World Relief estimated that around 147 million children were classified as orphans or were at-risk worldwide. International adoption offers the opportunity for some of these children to find families, homes, and futures away from poverty, starvation, disease, neglect and abuse, and other dangerous situations such as war and sex trafficking.
Many times, these families take on a new appreciation of their child’s birth country and support charities, join cultural groups, and advocate for positive change. Some internationally adopted children also wish to return to their birth country, sometimes in search of birth family, but also to search out and give back to the orphanage or foster care family that served as their first home.
2. Protecting Children and Respecting Countries Involved in Intercountry Adoption.
Today, there are more than 90 Hague Adoption Convention countries. The Hague Adoption Convention is an international agreement created to establish safeguards to ensure that intercountry adoptions take place with the best interests of the children involved.
Countries that are party to the Hague Convention work to ensure that intercountry adoptions are in the best interests of children and protect birth family rights. As the adoption process is a complicated one, safeguarding the rights of children should be a high priority to our global community, including our adoption community.
3. Spreading the Love.
On a much less technical or political level, international adoption allows everyday people—families and friends—to take the time to learn about and appreciate and incorporate other cultures into their own. The process of adoption often includes researching and immersing oneself in another world—taking on a new perspective and seeing the world through a different lens.
As for my family, while we may never be invited to a UN summit, we do enjoy sharing our love of our children’s birth country. Our family and friends know and understand the respect we have for, and our continued commitment to, our “second home.” Through education, culture camps, sports, music, food, and sharing stories of our experience, we hope to break down barriers and misconceptions about our daughters’ homeland, while raising them with love and respect for their first home. We stay in contact with friends and acquaintances from their birth country in the hopes of shining our country in a positive light as well. Along the way, our journey has brought us together with adoptive families from other countries,too, all of whom once boarded a plane to somewhere far away.
Over the years, these experienced have combined to make the world feel less like a neighborhood watch and more like a neighborhood we share together.