A reader writes:
My wife and I adopted our daughter from China seven years ago, a process that, at the time took less than two years. We are currently awaiting our second child - a process which has now entered its fifth year. When we first considered adoption (rather than fertility drugs and other procedures), we investigated public and private adoption here in Canada.
What we found was disheartening: the wait for a public adoption was a minimum ten years for an infant. Private adoption, while shorter, was more like a lottery, with the birth mother choosing a family and still retaining the right to change her mind as much as 30 days after the baby was placed with the family. Good friends of ours actually had a baby for 25 days when the birth mother changed her mind.
Our foster homes are overflowing with children. They are lucky to have a public system capable of taking them in when their parents fail them (abuse, drug addiction, criminal activity, unsafe environments). But their luck ends there.
In Canada, our system stills weighs heavily the rights of the biological parent over those of the child. As such, children removed from bad homes are kept for six months, while the parent is given an opportunity to straighten themselves out. While this seems humane, it is often followed by extensions when the parent has not quite collected themselves. So the child is kept in the foster care system, moving from foster care, back to home, back to foster care. While this happens, critical early development months are lost. By the time courts decide enough is enough, the children are often too old to be wanted by couples seeking to start a family.
I wish that it were different, that families would adopt these children. But those of us unable to have children of our own want to start families. Our motivation is not charity. We want infants, not the challenges of an older child put through a foster care system which does its best, but fails to provide what these children need: family and early development.
The solution it seems to me is to place more emphasis on the child's well being, and to respect those critical first two years upon which everything else is founded. If we did, those children would have permanent homes and families in EVERY SINGLE case.
As Steve Martin says in Parenthood: everybody needs to have a license to drive, but any asshole can have a child. What is happening today is nothing less than a tragedy.
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