VIEWPOINT: Adopting overseas worthwhile

I am continually impressed with the passion and commitment our students have for social justice and being the change in the world they wish to see. But in this case I have to say that Emil Ovbiagele’s passion is aimed in the wrong direction.

It’s understandable that some young people have trouble separating reality from what is on TV, but I would argue that two Hollywood celebrities plus two African babies do not make a trend.

The tragedy in Haiti has simply shone a spotlight on the plight of orphans across the world (including those in our own country), and it’s my belief that people’s desire to rush to Haiti to adopt a child is the direct response to our humanness: the need to help, to ease suffering, to give love to a child who’s alone.

While I don’t condone breaking laws in order to help these children, we should all applaud any person who can open their heart and home to a child who longs for parents as badly as a parent may long for him or her — especially given how very difficult the adoption process really is.

Your “bone of contention” should not overshadow what is truly important here — the welfare of a child, no matter what his race or place of birth.

I am the stepmother to two biracial children and my husband and I are in the process of adopting a baby from China. When your children “look” like you, no one questions your right or ability to be their parent, yet some people seem to feel they have the right to question ours.

While no one can truly know the heart of another human being, even a celebrity, I would guess that Ms. Jolie feels much the same way.

It’s negligent to make even a loose assumption that the thousands of parents currently in the process of adopting internationally might be acting on the whim of a trend and taking their cues from a couple of Hollywood celebrities simply because some people — such as the creator of the social networking game you came across, and perhaps yourself — never gave much thought to international adoption before Hollywood introduced it to you.

If Madonna and Jolie have indeed inspired some people to seek international adoption then you will be pleased to know that doing so isn’t a magical snap of the fingers.

Trends are fleeting and momentary. I could name a dozen that have flown out of fashion in the three and a half years we have been waiting to bring our adopted daughter home.

Along with mountains and months of paperwork and extreme cost, there are classes and tests you have to (and should!) take to educate yourself about what your children may experience in their lifetime, having been removed from their home country and culture, and what they experience when looking different than their parents.

The majority of people who adopt children from other countries do so with the intention of integrating their culture into their children’s lives as best they can.

People choose international adoption for a myriad of reasons.

For some, the idea of having a child through domestic adoption only to have the birth mother change her mind after they’ve had the baby home for a month (by law in Wisconsin the birth mother has up to 30 days — or sometimes longer in certain foster-to-adopt situations — to change her mind) is too heart-breaking to consider.

You briefly touched on the complexity of the foster care system itself, but had you dug a little deeper you might also have noted that every child in the foster care system — yes, all 460,000 of them if your research is correct — are considered special needs.

While the special needs adoption process is equally worthy to any other kind, it’s one that requires parents equipped to deal with the needs of these deserving children, many of whom are older and from larger sibling groups.

And add to that the bureaucracy, etc. that you mentioned in your article and it’s little wonder that more people can’t follow this course (Please note that this is not to imply that children adopted from foreign countries don’t also have special needs. Every country and every child is different. Also note that I don’t claim to be an expert on the foster care system. I just know what I’ve learned from our own journey.)

I would ask that you redirect your passion and energy toward the problem with the foster care system.

My husband and I were very interested in adopting concurrently through foster care (since our Chinese adoption is taking so long) and were turned away.

We were told, in essence, that we couldn’t hold two licenses to adopt at the same time.

However, the same rules would not apply if we were to seek another international adoption or even a domestic one — both incredibly expensive options.

If other governments make it (somewhat) easier to adopt than our own, then who can blame people from pursuing the less complicated and heartbreaking path toward a family?

Let me end on this note: Many people who seek adoption, both domestically and internationally, may indeed start out in part, with good intentions of “saving a child.”

But in the end, what actually happens is that the adopted child saves them.

Sharon Grace is the director of Creative Services in the Office of Marketing and Communication.