While many of us do a lot of research before deciding on a country, it sometimes seems as if a country chooses us. As an example, when I was just beginning to think about adoption, I read an article in the New York Times about adoption from China. This was before China was a popular country for adoption, and I had never heard about China adoption before. As I read about its openness to older single women and such (that was before all of China's newer rules), I found myself looking at the pictures and thinking, "That could be my daughter!" and "That could be my son!" Even though I did a lot of research subsequently, and looked at a few other countries, I kept coming back to China, and several years later, I brought home my wonderful Chinese daughter.
In my case, my decision to choose China was also based on factors such as:
1. The country's surprisingly ethical and organized adoption system. Even before it ratified the Hague Convention, it went out of its way to pass laws that reflected best practices in international adoption and that were designed to reduce corruption.
2. The fact that single and older women could adopt. I was single (long divorced) and almost 51 when my daughter came home.
3. The fact that Chinese culture valued education and revered the aged, and raised children much as my Eastern European Jewish parents raised me.
4. The fact that I already loved Asian foods, Oriental art, and so on, and always thought that Chinese children were beautiful.
5. The fact that a couple of my relatives had actually visited China, and one spoke some Mandarin and had many Chinese friends and business associates.
6. The fact that I lived in an area with many Asian people. Ultimately, we moved to an area with even more Asians, and my daughter grew up with playmates and classmates who lived with their Asian parents, as well as with a lot of children adopted from countries like China, Korea, India, and even Nepal.
7. The fact that there were many ethical agencies with China programs, including the one based in my area that I eventually chose. I had a very positive experience with the agency.
8. The fact that the Jewish institutions in my area were already becoming less all-White, as a result of intermarriages and adoptions. Ultimately, my daughter went to a Jewish preschool and to a Jewish day school, where there were other Asian children. And when she went to an IB program in a public high school, it was majority Asian. We also belonged to a synagogue that had many adopted children, including children from various Asian countries.
9. The fact that, at the time, the total time frame was reasonably short, the travel was for 10 days to two weeks, and the costs were surprisingly moderate.
10. Perhaps most importantly, the fact that China truly had a need for international adoption of relatively healthy infants and toddlers at the time. Orphanages were filled up with children who were abandoned because of the repressive "one child" policy, because they were female and families needed sons to take care of them when they were old, and for many other reasons. And many people in China believed that raising a child who was "not of their blood" was inappropriate, and that children with minor issues such as a prominent birthmark, were somehow "unlucky" or "cursed". As a result, not many people adopted domestically.
Of course, no country is perfect. Each will have some issues that are worrisome for prospective adoptive parents. As an example, I had some concerns that virtually all of the adoptable children in China were abandoned, because there was often no other way to carry out an adoption plan there, without getting the birthparents into legal trouble. When children are abandoned, prospective parents will get no information about their birthparents' medical and pregnancy histories, about the babies' deliveries, and so on. This means that, throughout the adopted children's lives their adoptive parents will not know whether some genetic issue will arise, or whether a particular issue that their child has is birthparent related or not. To me, adopting an abandoned child was not a huge issue; my goal was to take a child of any background and to help him/her achieve his/her full potential.
Another concern, back then, was that Chinese referral documents were often woefully incomplete or inaccurate. Head circumferences, heights, and weights were often so wrong that an obviously normal child might seem to have a whole lot of serious risk factors. Diagnoses would be missed, or diagnoses would be listed that did not belong to the child in question. Developmental history while the child was in care was often minimal. Again, however, I wasn't terribly worried. I'd have been more worried if I heard about kids coming home with certain conditions, previously undiagnosed, because I was a single, older woman who might have difficulty meeting the needs of a child with huge medical, developmental, or emotional/behavioral challenges, but from what I saw at parent support groups, the children referred as healthy rarely had major disorders. Back then, China had a tendency NOT to refer children with obvious issues such as Down's syndrome or autism, because it wanted to be perceived well in the world community and because it didn't think that foreigners would want such children. Luckily, today, China recognizes that people in prosperous countries like the U.S., with an excellent medical care system, are willing to adopt children with special needs, even some fairly serious ones.
I was also not terribly worried about transracial parenting, though I knew that many people would find it difficult. First off, as a Jew, I had experienced hurtful remarks and attempts to convert me; I was also famiiiar with events such as the Holocaust, where Jews were murdered because of their beliefs. Second, I had been involved in human relations and civil rights activities, and had learned some techniques for dealing with expressions of racism and hate. Third, my home had long been open to people of a variety of races, religions, and ethnicities. And, finally, I knew that, when it came to adoption, transracially adopted children were likely to encounter prejudice not only from White people, but also from people of their own race, and felt that I could help a child deal with the sense of rejection. I can say only that my daughter did occasionally encounter prejudice, and that I think I gave her some tools for dealing with it. She seems to be growing up normally, and is actually in a relationship with a young man from yet another ethnic and religious group. She is extremely outraged by prejudice, whether against people like her, or against people such as Muslims, Indians, LGBTQ folks, etc. But I would like to see her turn her irritation into constructive action; she has never stood up and said, upon hearing a racist remark, "What an un-American thing to say!", or mobilized the women on her campus to appear in headscarves, regardless of their religion, after an incident in which a man pulled off a Muslim student's headscarf and threatened to set her on fire. I hope that, someday, she will find the strength to do so. On the other hand, as her Mom, I'm a bit relieved that she has not become the recipient of a violent response to her comments or actions.
I also did not have a lot of concerns about going to China. Many prospective parents worry that the Chinese people will be upset that Chinese children are being adopted by Americans, possibly even becoming violent against adoptive families. While that has been a valid concern for people adopting from countries like Russia and Guatemala, all of the adoptive families I met before I adopted told me of receiving a very warm reception as they traveled around China with their new children. They spoke of people calling out, "Lucky Baby" and giving a thumbs-up gesture. And, in fact, that was what I experienced. In fact, in a restaurant at a Buddhist temple, where other members of my travel group and I were the only White people present and certainly the only White people with Chinese children, the Chinese diners asked our guide why we had Chinese babies with us, and when the guide explained, everyone in the restaurant stood up and applauded us! It was amazingly moving. I was reminded of that incident when we went to the Chinese Consulate at Guangzhou to get our kids' visas, and although we did not have to stand in any lines, as Americans, there was a line snaking around the block of Chinese citizens seeking permanent resident or temporary visas. Despite China's Communist government, a very large proportion of Chinese people admires the U.S., and would love their children to grow up here, with freedom, academic opportunities, good health care, and so on.
All in all, China was a great fit for me, and I sometimes think that my daughter was the exact child I was meant to have. But China may not be the right choice for you. As an example, if you are young and married, Korea, with its Western system of medicine, good medical records, and generally excellent care of children in foster families, might be perfect for you. If you are of Polish heritage, you might enjoy caring for a child from that country. If you live in a heavily Hispanic area, and are open to older children, there might be a perfect child for you in Colombia.
If you do everything possible to ensure that your adoption will be legal and ethical, that your child truly needed international adoption, and that you are well prepared to parent a child who may not look like you or who may have some unknowns in his/her background, then there is no wrong country. Do your research, but also listen to your heart. You may be surprised at where your child is waiting for you.
Sharon