The Missing: It's So Personal

A reader writes:

Enough of the judgment from your readers: a well-considered decision to bring either an adopted or biological child into a family is a highly personal one, and the idea that it is well-considered is the important part.  I appreciated the candor of your reader who had 11 miscarriages; her perception that an adopted child may be more risky or difficult to parent may or may not be correct, but if it gives her pause or causes her to think deeply about why she wants to be a parent and what her coping skills realistically are, that is a good thing.  It is far better than someone whose romanticized view of adoption - as a selfless act that is all about giving a child a family, not giving a family a child - leads them into a situation they cannot cope with.

Sometimes, perhaps a decision to hold out for a same-race child may signal that a person has gotten in touch with some hard truths about themselves and is simply being honest about what they think they are equipped for.  I am not sure they should be made to justify the decision or cover it up with a lie.

When someone is making "kim-chi excuses" for why they want to adopt a child of the same race, why are we judging them for that decision?  It may not be based on factual evidence about what is best for an adopted child, and it may not even be the real reason, but it may be based on a lot of soul-searching.  If a person has deeply considered their prejudices and feels for some reason they could not parent a child of another race, should we become indignant about their racism, or should we respect them for being honest with themselves (even as we may be saddened or troubled by the implications of it)? 

Adopting a special needs child is really no different: some people are up to it, but some people know they aren't. And while any child may be born with or develop physical, emotional or mental problems, adopted children are statistically more likely to suffer from such issues.   Fifteen or 18 years ago, The Atlantic Monthly ran a very long cover story on adoption that was so powerful, it still sticks with me: it cited statistics that showed the much higher prevalence of behaviors such as teen pregnancy among even children who were adopted at birth.

And of course no one disputes that parents' emotional and mental issues, substance abuse, or child abuse and neglect - all highly cyclical problems, whether genetic or environmental - are often what precipitate an unplanned pregnancy or foster care placement in the first place.  If someone says kids in foster care are "broken," it is an ugly word, but it acknowledges this higher statistical incidence.  However, it could also point to some careful deliberation; perhaps they are also saying "I'm trying to maximize my chances of a healthy child, because I am worried about my ability to be a good parent to a child who has special needs."  It's not pretty, but at least it is honest. 

Thank God for all the amazing adoptive and biological parents out there who love every child equally, harbor no prejudices, and care for the children in greatest physical and emotional need.  But I am also thankful for those who know in their hearts they are not those kinds of parents, and make decisions accordingly.