The moment of truth

My last post definitely struck a nerve. I am thankful to see more and more families truly wrestling through the issues with international adoption. Many of you have said something very important – this is not all black and white. Sometimes it is hard to know what is best for a child, even when we are willing to surrender our own desires.

As I am writing about some hard issues, can I begin with a bit of a disclaimer? Please do not to judgment as you look at other people’s adoption cases. There is often more than meets the eye – and often adoptive families choose not to tell the whole story because they are protecting their child’s privacy. More than anything my hope is that as you read this blog you would examine your own heart. If you are in the adoption process, I hope that you would strive to be in a place emotionally and spiritually that you can sacrifice your own desires to do what is best for a child or family. At the same time, when you see injustice, do not be quiet. If you know of an adoption agency, lawyer, ministry, orphanage or leader involved in corruption, speak up. As far as I am concerned, if you have accurate information and especially if it’s your personal experience, proclaim it from the mountain tops. The culture of silence in the adoptive community is like a cancer.

If you see a family that may be heading down the path of escalating commitment I wrote about this weekend, find a way to speak the truth in love. How should you respond if you see a family doing something unethical, corrupt or even illegal in their adoption? The Bible calls us to first examine our own hearts and then to go to one another – in humility, love and grace – to point out wrongdoing. If the person will not listen to us, we should go with two or three witnesses. If they still will not listen, then we should consider taking steps to hold them accountable – be speaking publicly or this contacting authorities in the United States or Uganda. Some of you may disagree with me on this. There is a ton of fear in the adoption community – a worry that if we talk about corruption more countries will close. But if we are never honest about the corruption, how will we ever fight for justice and change?

So what is a moment of truth?

It is that point in the adoption process where the adoptive family realizes there is more to the story. Often adoption agencies, orphanages, lawyers and government officials don’t tell the whole truth – and adoptive parents are left picking up the pieces. Sometimes we discover the truth about our child’s history before we travel – other times it is not until we’re already home. No matter when we discover the truth, we have critically important decisions to make. Do we continue trying to adopt a child? Do we switch to a different adoption agency? Do we stay connected to the biological family? Do we contact the authorities about the corruption we experienced?

Our first moment of truth happened more than two years ago. We had a referral for a baby girl in Uganda. When we first heard about the child, we had been told her mother and father were married and dying of AIDS and that she was living in an orphanage. Our hearts were broken for her. We fell in love with a picture of a beautiful baby girl – and the idea that she would join our family. As we rushed to finish our dossier, we received horrible news. The little girl had died of an infection from a small burn on her hand. We were devastated. Once the orphanage had nothing more to lose, however, we heard the rest of the story. The little girl had never been living in an orphanage. We had been given a referral for her while she was still living with her mother. The mother was not married – nor was she dying. She was young and had been raped. She was scared, poor, vulnerable. This moment of truth allowed our family to see that our adoption agency was too inexperienced. We switched to adopting independently – a better choice in Uganda at the time (though not anymore). We have had several other moments of truth over the last few years.

Today I want to introduce you to a friend Marci, who has courageously written about her moment of truth on her blog, She Can Laugh. Marci shared the story of how they chose to walk away from a little boy they hoped to adopt after they found out he had a family.

She Can Laugh: A Ugandan Adoption Story

Can I share a little story with you?

It is a cautionary tale about an adoption that almost happened and how if I had allowed it to proceed, it would have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life. Recently there has been a whole lot of buzz in the (adoption) world about families risking and sacrificing all to parent a child that the US governing entities has not allowed them to bring home… while this is horrifying and tragic, and my heart breaks for the adoptive parents dealing with this, there are things that are even worse… Christian families placing the end of “adoption” above the means of justice. I wanted to share our story, not because we did it all right and perfectly (and not because I want to reprove others who have found themselves in a difficult spot with an ethically compromised referral), but because we very well could have been “that family” being told “no” by the US embassy if we had done things differently.

No one, especially potential adoptive parents want to hear about adoptions that don’t work out… but please read this! And please take time to read it all… (I know, I skim too, but this isn’t a “skimmer” type post). Thanks!
Is there a need for adoption?
It all started exactly two years ago. On January 14th 2011 we got these photos of a precious baby boy, who was about 4-6 months old. We were smitten from the moment we saw him. Furthermore, we knew he was our son; his name at birth was Ezra… the very name we had planned on naming our next son… we were sure it was God’s plan for him to be ours!

Click here to read the rest of the story on Marci’s blog.

Sara Brinton

SARA BRINTON is a writer and entrepreneur with a passion for reforming international adoption and orphan care. She leads marketing for Noonday Collection, a business that uses fashion to create opportunity in developing countries. Sara and her husband, Mark, live in Austin, Texas with their four children, including daughter Gabrielle who was adopted from Uganda.

  • Sherry

    January 17, 2013 at 11:05 am Reply

    I found your blog while trying to research adoption agencies to work with in Uganda. We are here in country investigating a child we hoped to adopt. Do you happen to know which agency Ekubo Ministries use to do their international adoptions? No one has responded to my email.

    • Sara

      January 18, 2013 at 10:32 am Reply

      Sherry I will look into this for you!

    • Sherry

      January 21, 2013 at 12:48 pm Reply

      Did you find anything?

  • Mary

    January 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm Reply

    I am so thankful that I found your blog. Thank you for speaking what has been on my heart for a long time. I can only imagine the cries to “be quiet” that are being sent your way, but please continue to talk! This is a reality of international adoption, not the only reality, but a reality–an all too common one. I wonder what advice you have for those of us who have a heart for adopting children in need of homes, children for whom every other option has been exhausted. I see lots of lists of questions to ask agencies on various blogs, but you know what, I can think of a million ways that corruption can enter the picture even if all of those questions are met with acceptable answers. Can adoptive families every really, really, really know the truth about their children’s birth stories, especially before the court hearing takes place? My understanding is that a 3rd party investigation can’t take place in Ethiopia, at least, before court. Am I wrong?

    • Sara

      January 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm Reply

      I think having a third party investigation is one of the only ways you can really know the truth about a child’s history. It frustrates me to no end that many adoption agencies will not allow their families to hire independent investigators. I know that at least in Uganda, there are a few agencies that will allow families to hire independent investigators or social workers. In general, a child should not be placed for international adoption unless they cannot be reunited with their biological family or adopted by another family locally. I am not an expert on Ethiopian adoptions, but I’ve heard from people who know more than I do that corruption continues to be widespread. In Uganda and Ethiopia – and really everywhere – most of the children who are truly in need of new homes through adoption are older, have difficult histories or special needs. If your family is not at a place where you can adopt a child who is older or who has special needs and you want to do something to help, I would encourage you to consider waiting until you are and in the meantime supporting an organization working to strengthen vulnerable families – rather than potentially trafficking a child from a family.

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