Saturday, October 1, 2011

This is not a gray area

A few days ago, a horrifying post appeared on the blog of an American couple currently in Uganda. They had gone to an orphanage in the hopes of beginning adoption proceedings for a ten-year-old girl they had met. In many countries children may stay in orphanages as a temporary measure when a family is going through hard times. Children living in orphanages who have not been relinquished are not available for adoption. When the American couple got to the orphanage, they found the girl’s grandmother and uncle were there to take her home; they learned that the girl’s mother was on her way as well. Then the American couple, carried forward by their unshakeable conviction that God wanted them to have this little girl, spent the next few hours badgering the grandmother and uncle with prayers and photographs of their (comparatively) incredible wealth. They got the grandmother and uncle to agree to pressure the girl’s mother into relinquishing her so the Americans could have her.

There was an outcry among many people who read this post, and after a few days it was taken down. I heard that someone was able to send a copy to the U.S. embassy in Uganda before it disappeared. You can find many more details here and here and I have nothing to say about the original bloggers that hasn’t already been said.

I do have something to say about the people who commented on this case. Mostly the comments took one side or the other – either, “Hallelujah, God moves mountains, God wants you to take this child” or “This is completely wrong, this is trafficking, stop.” A few more “reasonable” people saw a gray area, pointing out the good-hearted motives of the American couple, the complications inherent in international adoption, and the difficulty of the girl’s situation.

This post is for the reasonable people.

To the person who wrote, “I know [ ]  and [ ]. I traveled to Uganda with [ ] and [ ] stayed at our house for a night or two about a year ago. They are lovely, God-fearing people”

They may be very pleasant people. But they are trying to take a child who has not been relinquished by her mother. She is not available for adoption.

To the person who wrote, “This is not a wealthy family, he is a pastor at a church and she is a stay at home mom… I think they are a very well intentioned family”

It doesn’t matter what their intentions are. The child has not been relinquished by her mother. She is not available for adoption.

To the person who wrote, “This is a really hard subject”

No, it isn’t. She is not available for adoption.

To the same person, who wrote about her experience with people in Uganda using their children to fleece sponsorship money from foreigners and then letting their children go unschooled and hungry –

That sucks. There are assholes everywhere. But she is not available for adoption.

She also said, “I don’t believe [ ] to be grandiosely wealthy people. They seem to have pretty well-adjusted little ones and have worked their way around some difficult situations… who am I to say that their belief that [ ] is to be their child is wrong. So, I don’t believe they are child-trafficking or anything else that has been leveled against them. They see a kid with a great need and want to help”

But she is not available for adoption.

To the person who wrote, “unless you know the family and the little girl's situation, you really aren't qualified to comment about them in a public forum”

It doesn’t matter what her situation is. For her to be living in an orphanage, her situation probably stinks. There are many children in similar situations who have been relinquished by their parents. This particular one is not available for adoption.

To the person who wrote, “This family has had long standing ties with this child care center for years and this specific older girl (she is over 10) asked for them as parents when the sister and dad visited last year..... it’s a tough situation. I have followed this blog for over a year- I am not certain that the young girl, [ ], had ever thought going back to live with her family was ever an option. She would pray with the center workers for a new family”

I can believe that the girl wants to go with them. But it’s not an option. She is not available for adoption.

To the person who wrote, “I was in Uganda with [ ] and [ ] in April. They are not recruiting for adoption as you refer to it. They have established strong relationships with Uganda and the people there. They are working hard to change what orphan care looks like in this country. They have been in country a combined total of over 10 times”

It sounds like they are very involved and doing good things. They are also trying to take a child who is not available for adoption.

This is not a gray area. There is nothing to be reasonable about. Because (one more time):

She is not available for adoption.

In a few months we will hopefully go to court to become the legal parents of the two boys who were referred to us. We are not sharing who in the boys’ family is still living, but suffice to say they have living relatives. Until the court proceedings, their family can change their minds and reclaim them. This is part of the adoption process as it was explained to us very clearly from the beginning. This seems to be the part that adoptive parents conveniently forget as they decorate rooms and buy baby clothes. Then if it’s time for court and the family has changed their minds – What?! Outrageous!! But that’s my child!!

No, it isn’t. If the boys’ family changes their minds, it will suck for us. SUCK. Bigger font: SUCK. My world will come crashing down. I will cry, I may vomit, I will likely sink into a deep depression for a long time. If we believe the relatives are good people and their fortunes have changed, I will at least have the comfort of knowing the boys are returning to a home where they will be well cared for. But what if the family is rude and mean and desperately poor? I will be so sad to let the boys go. But they are their kids. And one thing I won’t do is bully the family into letting the boys come with me. 

Because at that point, the boys will be (all together now):

Not available for adoption.


  1. I love this post. Thanks for your response and brilliance. Can I link on my post?

  2. Yes, of course. And thank YOU for getting so many people talking about this. Hopefully something will be done about this specific case, but also hopefully some people who hadn't seen anything wrong with this kind of behavior before will now open their eyes.

  3. Like this post. Trying to say something about my initial reaction and my belief in the grey area and how it may or may not apply in this case. But I can't come up with anything coherent other than, thank you for writing this.

  4. My Word Verification for that last comment was "Smite" Hmmmmmm

  5. My husband & i were just talking about how there are still2 weeks until we go to court. While we are preparing everything for her as our daughter. There is still a chance she will not be, that is part of this process, as a mom i want what is best for HER, not for me. To think about bribing someone to take their child is disgusting & beyond arrogant. your right there is NO gray here!

  6. Right on! She is NOT available for adoption!

  7. Thanks for posting! I'm so sick of people having this sense of entitlement, especially when it comes to children!!!

  8. @semiferal: just to be clear, I think there are lots of gray areas in adoption. But this isn't one of them. And I promise I'm not trying to smite you. :)
    @Kristen: whatever happens, I know you will do the right thing. I think that's what makes waiting so hard. Because we aren't confident of the outcome. Unlike those horrible people, who already posted the kid's picture on their blog and told her to call them mommy and daddy before finding out if she was available for adoption.

  9. Kyra- Rest Assured that a lot of action was taken by other AP's in this case. Many of us are paying the price for it now from this families followers but it is fine. It was the right thing to do for the child.
    Thanks for your perspective and continues advocacy!!

  10. Thank you, Cindy. I figured you and others who had adopted from Uganda would know who to contact over there. Please be sure to let us know if you find out the outcome. Do you know if the authorities have received copies of the posts that lead up to the attempted adoption? has links to them.

  11. Right on. There are many grey areas in adoption. This is NOT one of them. I also wrote about it= although, badly, from a injured Christian perspective. Tore me up to read it. Trying trying trying to let it go- but it stirred up so much. UGH!!

  12. Having the attitude that children "are not available for adoption,” until AFTER all of the court proceedings, which PROPERLY determine that a child is indeed available and in NEED of being adopted is a fair healthier attitude for adoptive parents to have. It is better to have this perspective for the children's sake and for your own peace of mind. This goes for both international and domestic adoptions.

    If agencies and prospective parents maintained this attitude, we would be in the position of finding parents for kids, not kids for parents.

    Great post!

  13. Just followed you here from a comment on another website. Love the blog. Love this post. Amen. In some strange way this reminds me of the current situation in my household in which I tell my 3-year-old "no" and then he tries every single possible angle to change my mind. Every time I say "No" he comes at me with "but..." You can argue all of those details a million times but the answer is still the same. This girl is not available for adoption. Respect that. Amen. Great post.

  14. I love how you wrote this post - so unfailing and direct and reasonable.

  15. Sorry to disagree. This girl was left in institutional care since birth (over ten years) without so much as a visit from anyone in her bio family. I just don't think this is black and white. I DO believe there is gray. The same way as when a family in the states abandons their child. They may change their mind, but they don't "get" to. That child would no longer be theirs, in the states. And the pictures? Only people and faces. Not "stuff." Please know the facts and stop calling these people "awful people." This is all just ugly. And getting worse. So so sad.

  16. Deb,
    If you look at the original post - I can't link to it, as it's been taken down - you'll see that the bloggers themselves said that the family would have to sign papers to relinquish her. So she is not available for adoption. Even in the states, you can't say a child is "no longer theirs" if parental rights haven't been terminated, no matter how neglectful the parenting has been. Neither you nor someone wanting to adopt a child gets to make that determination. This is not a gray area.

  17. What I'm suggesting is that perhaps the fact that they haven't been involved for ten years changes things a bit. I do think the family needs to relinquish or the courts need to decide that they already did (after ten years). If you disagree, that's fine.

  18. I don't disagree. Like you said, the family can relinquish or the courts can decide. The prospective adoptive family should have absolutely no part of that. To involve themselves in that process is completely unethical.

  19. holy crap! Okay I have a HUGE problem with this. I think this is a flaw in international adoption, as well.

    And for the record, I am a Christian and I deeply believe adoption is beautiful and wonderful when done correctly. I can see the hand of God working even in the most broken parts of our adoption. It is why we're going to rise above all of this awful corruption in adoption and reveal the truth of what is happening- and God willing, get adoption reform.

    Okay, here are my thoughts

    1. In Ethiopia I've heard of parents relinquishing birth rights, letting the child go into an orphanage, and then getting back on their feet, and taking the child back when the potential adoptive family has their court date. This is so wrong. Not that the mother is taking the child back, but that she is forced into that situation without any other form of aid! It is not fair to the adoptive families, either.

    2. It sounds like in Uganda they have it a little more together- where they can allow the children to stay at the orphanage, and then come back when they are ready, without matching the child with a PAP.

    3. Children should stay with their birth families at all costs! I don't care if they are poor. When I lived in West Africa I found the most fulfilled people living there. Yes, the medical care isn't to the same standard as the US, and technology is sparse- but they are HAPPY, FULLFILLED, and LOVED. I would gladly trade a long miserable life in the states for a shorter satisfied one in a developing country. There is no reason to separate a family that wants to be together. We should find aid to keep them together...which brings me to-

    4. When we received our referral of our son we found out his birth mother was still alive. That did not sit right with us. We even asked if we could keep the family intact if we supported them financially. No, that wasn't allowed. And if we didn't accept the referral someone else would. So we took the referral knowing that we would keep them in close contact. It still doesn't make what happened right, but we are now going to be the voice for this.

    As adoptive parents (I'm talking to everyone who has adopted!) we ALL have a responsibility to be the voice for our children and their birth families, especially if we know there is something broken in the system. This shouldn't happen. If parents are alive, want to keep their children, but can't afford it, as adoptive parents I find that we are OBLIGATED to figure out a solution to this problem. I feel as an adoptive parent of a child who had the system fail his family it is now my burden to fix it.

    Okay, off my soapbox. I just can't believe that there are people ignorant enough to be praising the "adoptive family" in the situation that you posted about.

  20. Well said, Kyra. It is not up to PAPs to decide who is or isn't available to adopt. I don't care how many times this family has been to Uganda, they are not entitled to pick out a child and say the heck with the family's wishes. I agree that a 10 year old child *who is ALREADY available for adoption* should have some say in who adopts them, but if a child is not available for adoption, tough. We do not allow 10 year old children to decide if they want to be adopted. And to anyone who disagrees, consider the risks if someone who was wealthy beyond your imagining arrived on the scene to compete with you for YOUR children. Imagine if some rich glamorous movie star, someone who could give your child much, much more then you could, started visiting your child's school and took a special interest in your kid. OF COURSE any child would be swayed, which is why parents (not PAPs) make those decisions for their children.