As long as I’ve been writing about adoption, I have occasionally suffered pangs of … well, not guilt, per se, but an almost guilty relief for the fact that my kids came to me undamaged.
Following blogs of parents whose children live with an alphabet soup of lifelong and often life-shattering issues — RAD, FAS, FAE, PTSD — flings me to my knees in gratitude for the circumstances that allowed my children to be born reasonably healthy and pass the thirteen weeks between that miracle and the one that put them in my arms without any horrors.
It’s those 13 weeks I’m thinking of today, and although I will always regret and resent every minute I didn’t have with Sam and Cj, it seems amazing now that they had only a little more than three months of orphanage life.
That three-month time period is dictated by law in Cambodia to allow birth parents to reclaim children if they changed their minds about surrender. Fair enough for the birth parents, but does that sort of consideration for adults justify the setting of a term a child must serve? And if the time allowed would be six months? A year? Longer?
Aside from some in domestic private infant adoptions, adopted children are all sentenced to some duration in what is at best limbo, and at worst hell. As the focus on adoption skews ever more toward concerns about birth families and processes, the length of the sentences stretches out, and with the increase, now often years in the case of international adoptions from many countries, the children are ever more likely to be negatively impacted. Some countries forbid even referral before a child is six-months-old which all but guarantees a year or more of interim, stopgap living.
I am always surprised by the fact that there has not been a huge uproar over increased wait times, not because of the torture months of anticipation, stress and worry bring to hopeful adoptive parents, but on behalf of the children … our children … that are forced to pass month after month in temporary care.
If the care is top notch, safe and loving, the longer the child spends in those caring arms, the more wrenching and damaging the loss will be when the parents claim the child, and the more difficult the adjustment. If it is not wonderful … well, we know what can happen to children neglected and abused as infants.
It seems parents, agencies and governments are so concerned about the process, and so careful to thoroughly and precisely navigate an ever-growing list of ins and outs, that the fact the children are languishing, often dangerously, is chalked up to an inevitability that can’t even be mentioned, much less addressed.
Of course, precautions must be taken and checks made, but it seems there must be a way to alter the process so that children can come home before enough time passes for wounds to be created and scars to form.
It is, after all, all about the children. Right?