While our initial search began close to home, the short and sweet answer to why my husband and I decided to adopt internationally is pretty boring—it just felt right. Had you asked me at the start of our adoption journey whether or not we would adopt overseas, I probably would have laughed. If nothing else, it would’ve seemed overwhelming and out-of-reach. Our state registry was confusing enough and we had adoption resources right down the street, after all.
And yes, we’d heard stories from friends who knew someone who had adopted in such and such a country and had had to travel to a sketchy meeting place and secretly strap cash to their right thigh or comply with impossible criteria in order to achieve a match only to find out later that there was no child or the paperwork was inadequate or the government criteria had changed mid-process. We’d watched, in horror, news shows exposing fraudulent agencies in countries where black market adoptions had taken place with families on both ends ripped apart as a result. We’d heard of the terrible conditions third-world country orphanages were in and of adopted children later diagnosed with serious physical and mental health issues.
I can tell you that we did not decide to adopt internationally to “save” a child. We weren’t inspired by celebrities or looking to stand out in the crowd by jumping on the so-called bandwagon. We were not expecting to make it onto the cover of People magazine. And we didn’t “choose” a foreign child over the “more deserving” children in the United States. For the record, I think the media often unfairly or unintentionally portrays families who adopt internationally in a made-for-tv-manner not because adopters seek the limelight, but because of public curiosity—to many, international adoption appears exotic and glamorous. To those going through the process, it is anything but. I do think, however, that celebrities take advantage of said lime light to raise adoption awareness, even if it seems a bit flashy, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as it gets people talking. I’m also of the belief that all children deserve a safe and loving home, no matter their zip code.
Truthfully, looking back, emotionally, logistically, and financially, international adoption was probably not in our best “practical” interest. But that’s the funny thing about starting a family, be it biologically or through adoption, once you commit to bringing a child into your world, somewhere along the way it dawns on you that the end game has less to do with your comfort zone and more to do with the wants and needs of your child-to-be. You do what needs to be done to love and protect your family—no matter what.
What did prompt us to decide to adopt internationally was the result of loads of research on both the domestic and international adoption fronts, weighing not just the pros and cons, but what felt like a better match for us as a couple and how that would impact our ability to provide a family to a child. We had looked into a local private adoption agency as well as foster care, and while both were on the table, it wasn’t until we considered international adoption that we felt we were headed in the right direction for us. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it was about it that drew us in, and I’m sure it’s different for others. And it certainly wasn’t that we were against domestic adoption, but more so that international adoption felt like a better fit. In our case, I believe a lot of our decision was also formed based on our experiences with our local adoption agency and interacting with so many other adoptive families.
With research comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes the confidence needed to listen to your gut as well as your heart, as you begin to dim out all the negative Nellies in your life. Our research led us to a wonderful local adoption support network of families who also had taken the international route, and whose mission, it seemed, was to encourage us to do even more research and to educate ourselves so that we could be certain this was the right path for us, and that we would be able to offer our children what they would need from us—not financial support, but rather all the quiet ingredients that go into making a forever family. What was more encouraging was that these adoptive parents weren’t just motivated by the children they had adopted, but they remained engaged with the group years later in order to look after the needs of the children left behind, as well as foster a sense of community for the kids who now call the Unites States home. It felt sustainable and right. We were impressed with the orphanage and inspired by the woman who had founded it (nearly 40 years earlier at that point). She and her family were welcoming and clearly committed to—and passionate about—the children, as well as the birth parents and the community they served.
Aside from the logistical hurdles, international adoption also comes with a unique set of responsibilities that adoptive parents need to familiarize themselves with beforehand. International adoption means that you are removing a child from his country of origin. Issues such as ethnicity, heritage, and race must be understood before the adoption and acknowledged well afterwards. We had to ask ourselves if we were ready for such an undertaking—and the answer was yes. We read more, met with our social worker, met with a buddy couple, completed online classes, and asked a million questions of our support group before finally one day nervously stepping onto a plane carrying not just our luggage, but a baby carrier, diaper bag, and what we hoped would be enough baby supplies to get us through our stay.
Despite the myths that people turn to international adoption because it’s trendy or easier or cheaper than domestic adoption, I think many of us who do decide to adopt overseas do so because, perhaps without recognizing it at first, it was always our first choice—not necessarily a better choice than domestic adoption, but the right choice for us. A few years after our first adoption, I recall hearing a fellow adoptive mom trying to explain why she and her husband had chosen the international adoption route, and she’d said matter-of-factly that it was something she’d felt called to do. I remember nodding my head in agreement. Not a calling as in, “we are the special few,” but rather, we followed our life map just like everybody else, saw the sign, and recognized that it was the right path for us.