I Like Adoption: Saving children?

We love this video – Jason TOTALLY laughed his @ss off when the husband said “She’s the gas pedal and I’m the breaks.”

It’s a great video, but before you watch, here’s something to consider…

There is some sensitivity in the adoption world about talking about “saving children.” On one hand, some people, due to their faith or otherwise, feel that it is their mission or vocation to adopt, and to save children. So they talk about it quite openly, like the couple does in the video. Some others really resist talking about “saving children” because we (I include myself in this,) don’t want our children to grow feeling like they owe us any more than biological kids owe us. We also don’t want them to think negatively about where they come from.

But there is this reality, that a lot of children who were adopted wouldn’t have made it if they hadn’t got new families. I’m sure that’s true for some of the kids in the video, and probably it applies to our kids as well. Of the children I know from Ethiopia, the vast majority of the kids were out of options, due to health or family situations. Many of them would not have lived to adulthood.  Some would have been absorbed into traditional networks of neighbors and extended families, if adoption wasn’t an option…. but not all. Not even most.

So really, when you are adopting a child, you may or may not be “saving” them specificaly, but you certainly are creating a spot for another child to get into the adoption system, and to have a family. That’s undebated.

Enjoy this wonderfully inspirational video, and after, I’d love to hear what you think about the phrase “saving a child…”

12 thoughts on “I Like Adoption: Saving children?

  1. I’ve seen the video, and walk in some of the circles in which “saving” and “rescuing” are sometimes used in regard to adoption. I also walk in circles in which those terms are viewed negatively. I haven’t arrived at a personal opinion. I see wonderful people with beautiful hearts adopting on both “sides” of the issue – people who will in all likelihood provide nurturing, healthy, identity-building homes for children to grow up in. I hesitate to judge those who use the terms, although I don’t choose to use them myself. I think there is risk of becoming condescending or patronising when we use terms like that…but at the same time, I don’t necessarily presume that about people who use the terms. We use language that is familiar and accepted in our social circles, and sometimes need to step back and evaluate it. And, we need to be careful about judging or attaching motive to those who use different language than we do, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

    When I worked in mental health, there was a big movement toward “person-first” language (definitely the way I try to speak) – the intent was to move away from calling people by their diagnosis (e.g., “He’s a schizophrenic”) to focus first on the person, and less on what that person lives with – to humanize therapeutic relationships and remember that there is more to people than what brings them into health care situations. The problem was, that some very seasoned workers who used “old-fashioned” language were criticized and seen as being less therapeutic, respectful, and client-centred, when some of those workers were the very ones I would most trust with my experience if I was a client, knowing that their hearts and attitudes were absolutely in the right place, even if their words were not always politically correct.

    Anyway, we always need to be aware of what we are saying and what it conveys, but I think we need to assum the best about others even if their language seems a bit outdated or unpopular (obvisouly not referring to overtly discriminatory and disrespectful speech, but those grey areas). How’s that for being a fence-sitter?

    • That’s an awesome job at being a fence-sitter…
      I hear you too about the “person-first” approach with labels. I run Vulnerable Children Society, a non-profit that takes care of children living with HIV and other severe physical challenges in Ethiopia. (Notice my language there.) Twice in the past 2 years I’ve changed the way I’ve spoken about our kids… the first was when I put up a sponsor wanted post for a “disabled boy” or something like that. I can’t remember the wording I used, but I had two supporters email me telling me to change the wording of the post. Of course, I had the best of intentions and DO actually know what I am doing. But I was behind on language. The other time was taking some training on HIV, and learning to say kids “living wit h HIV” instead of HIV+ kid. I get the difference. But before and after, I was still helping kids living with HIV!

      Anyway, I reallly identified with that comment, and agree that we have to give people the benefit of the doubt….

  2. I’m also a fence sitter on this. On the one hand I do think adoption is a pretty extra-ordinary choice and, in my decision to adopt, I hope that I am giving a chance to someone who wouldn’t otherwise have one. On the other hand, I’d never want my child to feel the burden of having to be thankful that they were “rescued”. To me, there needs to be a distinction between what the adoptive parents have done and who the child is.

  3. I really cringe at the saving and rescuing language. I worry about what it will do to both the emotional health of some adopted people over time and the general public’s understanding of adoption.

    In terms of adopting children living with special needs, I don’t think it has to have anything whatsoever to do with the “saving” concept. Instead, it can be entirely about living out a commitment to the idea that adoption is meant to be about finding families for children as opposed to finding children for families. Using this lens, it can possibly be viewed as encumbent upon prospective adoptive parents (and I’m including myself here) to use a framework to make family-building decisions that is centred on the child. To me, that begins with opening up one’s child request to all medical needs one feels equipped for and capable of handling.

    • And I deinfitely think you need to know yourself. I mean, Jason and I have thouroughly thought out what we think our family can “handle” and what is best for our girls… for example, adopting another child of colour was really imprtant to us. We also want a boy to complete our family, and in a selfish way, enjoy parenting a child of the opporsite gender. But this time around, we are open to medical needs that we weren’t “up for” the first time around… so our toddler adoption will in some aspects be much more broad.

      Videos like this may get people thinking, though, about what the posiiblities really are for them. I think so many people say “healthy infant” without really igving any of the alternatives a second thought.

      • Arnica, that is so true. I’ve thought a lot about that before. It is probably an unusual first-time prospective adoptive parent who goes into it with a child request that includes many medical needs. We certainly didn’t. (“Of course, we want a “healthy” child!”) It was meeting waiting children in Ethiopia and seeing blogs and videos about children living with medical needs that changed our perspective completely.

        Sometimes a specific medical need is not workable for a family. For instance, if a child needs regular appointments at a Children’s Hospital and the closest is a six-hour drive away, that is maybe not a good fit. But I think families might surprise themselves with just how possible — and in some cases easy — it is to accommodate some medical needs. Some fantastic children are missing out on families who shouldn’t be and some families are waiting and waiting when the most perfect child could already be with them.

        Aside from the “saving” context of the video, I thought it was very powerful. In my mind, it leaves absolutely no doubt that those parents are both blessed and lucky to be Mom and Dad to all of the children and young people in their family.

        I think I’ve seen one blogger, Mary from Finding Magnolia, say far better than me what I am trying to communicate:
        “When people talk to us about our decision to adopt Elvie, when they start to get complimentary about what they measure as our great and noble deed, I try to stop them. I say the same thing every time, because it is so true to me. We really are nothing special. Do you see this baby? Do you see how absolutely perfect and precious she is? Of course we wanted to adopt her. This extra work we are doing? It is nothing compared to who she is, and what she gives to us and the people who know her.

        I believe that. I truly do. If you talk to other moms of kids whose needs are outside the ordinary, you’ll find that many of them will tell you the same thing. About how their lives have been changed for the better by their children being in them. About how they cannot imagine loving a child more than they love their child, who is perfect and precious and everything they never knew to dream of.”

      • That’s a wonderful quote, Chris.

        You know, we have a few friends who have adopted children with special needs (all sorts of different special needs!) and it definitely helped us see the possibilities.

        I’d like to shout out to D, J, T, and other parents who we had a chance to talk to about specific special needs, and what we thought we could handle or not. After come of the conversations, we ended up saying “that is not for us” or, “that is not for us and our girls, or our support system.” But some other conversations and research ended up in “why not? We can totally do this.”

        So that’s why our next child will most likely have some specific needs… (if not visable, then we’ll keep those specifics to ourselves.) But those conversations definitely opened up and focused the scope of possibilities for our family.

  4. I too shy away from the “saving” language, that is not the reason we chose to adopt, and we don’t think of it in that way. I am the mom of a child with special needs, that we did not know of at adoption, not through deceit or omission, it simply had not manifested by the age at which we adopted him. There is a similar controversy in the autism community. The debate is about saying “autistic child” versus “child with autism”. Both sides have good and bad points, and people feel really strongly about this, on both sides of the argument. I use both, but prefer the latter. I myself have diabetes, which makes me a diabetic woman, to me there is no difference between those phrases, but I can see not wanting to identify our children by their conditions first.

  5. What a beautiful video. The world needs more families like this one that looks past disabilities and gives these children a chance in life that they otherwise might not have.

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