Saturday, July 24, 2010

Adopting an older child

During college, I was traveling in a taxi to Fez, Morocco. We stopped in the middle of nowhere to take a photo and a group of children ran across the sandy dunes, seeming to appear from nowhere. I was impressed by their friendliness, the remoteness of where they grew up, and the obvious signs of poverty. At that point, I made the decision that I’d eventually join the Peace Corps.

It wasn’t long after that, when I’d had several other encounters with loving children, born into poverty and without a stable family, that I promised I would one day provide a home to one of them.

I fulfilled the first pledge, but haven’t fulfilled the second yet. I still intend to, but there are barriers. Among them, Mark’s nervousness about adoption (though he agreed to allow me to fulfill my promise to myself before we got married), the difficulty of finding the right match from overseas, the emotional, legal and financial uncertainties, the additional challenges of an older child vs. the greater demand for younger children, ensuring that the child has not been trafficked, etc.

For me, it’s important to adopt a child that would not likely have a family otherwise. If ten families are all lined up for a baby, my joining that line isn’t going to do a lot to help that child. I was so very inspired by the successful true adoption story of an older child in the movie Welcome to Sarajevo. But the adoptive father in this film had the chance to get to know his future daughter while on assignment in Sarajevo. I think it makes a big difference to be able to spend time with a child and see if it’s the right fit. Yet, at this point in our lives, it’s not so easy to take off for several weeks to go volunteer in an orphanage. Nor do we know enough to ensure we could adopt a particular child if we’d find the right fit.

So I was intrigued to find out about this organization, KidSave, which brings older children (8-15) into the homes of families who will either consider adopting them, or will serve as their advocate (promoting their adoption, supporting their education, etc.) for either a weekend or for five weeks of summer.

When I was in high school, we hosted a Spanish exchange student for six weeks during the summer. I just visited her at her home in Spain last month, about 15 years since I’d seen her last. She suggested that when our children get older, we exchange them for a summer, allowing all of our kids the opportunity to live with a caring family in a foreign language environment. A single 6-week visit led to a connection that has lasted decades, and perhaps generations.

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