The Chicago Tribune quotes Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, as saying that Haiti is gradually resuming U.S. adoptions that were already in progress before the earthquake, and may, in about six months, reopen for new prospective adoptive parents who wish to begin the complicated process of Haitian adoption. The Eathquake and the news and pictures that followed inspired many; DiFilipo reports lists of 5000 interested families. If you’re one of them, you should be gathering papers and working with a social worker–and thinking long and hard about whether you really have a lifetime to give. An odd side effect of the necessary complexities of international adoption is that it’s easy to forget what it’s really about.
Prospective adoptive parent Chris Marlow of Austin, TX, tells the Tribune that he and his wife, who’ve been working with a non-profit in Haiti for years, would like to “see if we can locate a kid (or kids) whose parents have died or whatever, and adopt one or two of them.” He sounds like an ideal adoptive parent for a child from another culture–knowledgeable , experienced and willing to maintain a serious connection with Haiti. He also sounds (sorry, guy, I know it’s only one quote, but I have to call you out on it) like someone who might want to give more thought to what parenting a child who’s already lost one set of parents (“or whatever”) will entail.
Parents interested in adoption can get caught up in the process–one that’s long, arduous and paperwork-filled (and, in the case of Haiti, court appearance- and travel-filled, and one that would daunt anyone adopting because it’s the trendy, Angelina Jolie thing to do in a New York minute). Because the process itself is so time consuming, it’s easy to let it substitute for the real preparation a family will need to bring home a Haitian child. Adoption is a wonderful way to expand your family and your world, but as an adoptive parent myself, I have to remind Marlow, and everyone else caught up in the early stages of adoption, that for every minute you put into gathering your 43rd copy of a certified, apostiled and blesssed-by-monks-from-the-mountainous-regions-of-Appalachia-certificate-of-something-or-another, spend another minute thinking about how you’ll handle that “whatever.”
Adoption is hard. Turning your adoption into your safe, solid, secure and loving family can make the process of gathering paperwork look like child’s play. There are children in Haiti who need loving homes, but providing a new loving home to a child who hasn’t had one, or one who’s known and lost love, isn’t easy. It’s almost always do-able, but families adopting older children, especially, need to prepare for the moments (and maybe more than moments) when it feels like it is not. Haiti may re-open, and processing resume, but the real process of adoption begins at home.
Photo courtesy the United Nations Development Programme, via Creative Commons.