Friday, December 17, 2010

Our Adoption Story Part 6b--Why Not Special Needs?

If you want to start at the beginning of our story

It was July when I discovered all the blogs and forums on adoption out there.  Since then I have encountered many different opinions.  Some of them are easy to dismiss, but some hurt my head as I expand my knowledge, some hurt my heart as I see people suffering, and some hurt my soul as I struggle to hear God's voice in the din of opinions.  There is nothing I desire more than to be doing God's will in my life.  I believe God intends my soul to wrestle with concepts and ideals as He makes me more like Christ.  I want to obey Him, but often I don't.  However, sometimes it is difficult to know when I am doing my own will versus making a choice to obey Him when it seems to be so different from what every one else hears.

We are LID 8/15/2006 for a NSN (traditional) China adoption.  There is a lot of pressure on some forums to switch to Special Needs (SN) adoption through China.  None of the pressure is directed at me and some of it is unintentional pressure or more to point, enlightening information on the joys of the SN program.  In my last adoption story post I mentioned we have lots of questions about switching programs.  Since then I have read even more reasons why one should switch and some great advice on what to do if one chooses to switch.  We have started looking at various lists and thinking okay, maybe this is doable.  It has made us even more open to a SN adoption through China.  However, here is where we stop. 

With prayer and discussion, we feel very open to a SN adoption, but always in addition to, not instead of our NSN adoption.  I do not know if this is because this is God's leading or because I am not willing to listen and obey.  I've already admitted I cannot let go of a girl without some real grief.  Now I realize I'm one of those people apparently hung up on ayap (as young as possible) girl.  Thinking about also bringing home a 3 year old boy or 6 year old girl brings me real joy, but not when it means not having a little girl younger than Sunflower.  (I realize that there are ayap girls with minor/correctable needs, but I don't see the value in switching from one almost to the front line to another, probably shorter but maybe not, line.)

Many people have a real passion for SN adoptions through China.  Some of what I read makes total sense.  Why wait in a line when there are children waiting for a home?  These children deserve forever families, too.  Those baby girls will be adopted by someone, but maybe not these children on the shared list.  You should adopt a child that actually needs saving...Wait!  We aren't adopting to save a child.  But we think adoption is better than living in an orphanage.  Finding families for children, not children for families.  What if "our" child is waiting on the list and will just have to wait and wait because we won't listen.  Oh, no!  Now my head is spinning and my heart is breaking for the children without families--one of them without a family because I won't switch programs.  Aaah!  The confusion!

Then I pray and once again feel at peace with our decision not to switch programs at this time.  I believe that peace can only come from God.  I am supposed to please God not men, but sometimes people's voices drown out God's.  It is possible the first/next child we bring home will not be through the traditional program, but God is not leading us to officially switch.  Currently we are redoing (not renewing because we let everything expire) our homestudy.  We will be talking to our SW about special needs adoption and seeing if we can be approved to adopt two children (not to bring home at once, but to have our paperwork reflect our desire to adopt two children eventually).  When our homestudy is done, then we will see what God has planned.

However, while I have heard some excellent reasons of why SN adoption through China should be looked at seriously, there are two arguments that are often repeated that astound me.  People write, "why don't people switch out of the NSN line to SN because of ..." but they complete that sentence with two of the main reasons we did not switch during the last five years.

The first one is "because we got our child home and there was nothing wrong with her."  This is so closely related to what I would call good advice that at first I was confused.  Others say, "prepare for the worst, but hope for the best."  However, the earlier argument skips the preparing part and jumps to the "the best happened part."  I would love the best happened part, but I don't believe it is fair to bring a child home expecting (hoping is fine) but expecting the best.  My husband and I are horrible pessimists with a lot of faith.  Finding the balance between trusting God because He will help us through and making responsible decisions for our family is hard for us--something we don't rush into quickly.  God will need to speak to us quite clearly--something I have 100% confidence He can and will do.  We do not want to miss out on God's plan out of fear.  However, switching programs because we might end up with a child with "nothing wrong" is down-right foolish.  I really pray no one is switching over from hearing this argument.

The second reason to switch I hear even more frequently but find even more astounding is "you should switch from NSN to SN because you won't get a perfect baby girl from NSN anyway; all children have special needs."  Ummm, I totally agree all children, and particularly all children who are adopted into another country after a year in institutional or foster care, have special needs.  This we have known since our pre-adoption training 5 years ago.  This is the reason we have not switched to SN.  When my friends ask me why it is taking so long and I explain it could go more quickly if we were open to special needs adoption, I go on to say we believe adoption in and of itself will require extra parenting skills and effort so we are not going to switch and add on one more potential complication.  I have been saying this for over a year.  Imagine my surprise when five months ago I found out the reason we weren't switching was the reason for which some people think we should switch.

I realize some people are in the NSN line with no knowledge of the issues children who have had no family, even for only 6 months to a year, might have.  Gently educating them has value.  I was really disappointed to learn 4 years ago that almost all children coming home have sleep issues similar to a newborn as they adjust to a new life--not all but enough it is something to expect.  We did kind of hope we'd get to skip the waking in the middle of the night phase by adopting a 1 year old.  During our training 5 years ago we watched a video on children from institutional care and our SW said, "many children look like they have autism when you pick them up; don't make a decision right away."  I'll admit this scared me.  Since then I have heard stories about the children coming home with sleep issues, emotionally shut down, sensory issues, in addition to grief, loss, fear, night terrors, language delays etc.  Most of these children have adjusted and are a joy to their family, but it was not a cake walk.  Being informed can only help parents be more prepared though preparation alone isn't enough to guarantee success and being unprepared doesn't guarantee failure.

However, the likelihood of these issues occurring does not appear to increase or decrease between NSN versus SN--though length of time without a family may impact this.  The sentiment that one should switch programs because these possibilities exist does not make sense to me.  How is taking the already unknowns involved in adopting a child you have never met and adding it to a known special need (ie whatever is listed on the child's medical file) and the unknowns associated with this need logical?  I don't mean to say no one should adopt SN just that "your daughter is going to have special needs anyway" is a flawed reason.

I am only mentioning the flaws that I perceive in the logic of these arguments because I really believe people are advocating for SN because they want these children to find homes.  I believe peoples' hearts are in the right place.  They should share their stories.  There are many families who do not contemplate SN through China because of lack of information, because of the scary term--special needs--and because they just need to hear about it from someone who has been there and done it.  Once they become more aware it is likely that some families could joyfully and successfully grow their family through the SN program.  Someday I really do hope to be one of those families.

However, no one wants a family to adopt from China via the SN program, or even adopt at all, if they are expecting to have no adjustment, attachment, or health problems.  Telling someone to switch programs because a SN child "often" (yes, I have heard often) comes home with no problems or because a SN child will possibly be healthier than a NSN child can only lead to problems if you ask me (which I will admit no one is doing!).  Convincing someone to switch programs because they are going to have "problems anyway" seems pretty silly.  It appears acceptable in the SN online community to be open to some special needs and not others.  It doesn't always feel acceptable to be open to the special needs of adoption (like potential sensory, eating, and sleep issues, racial identity, culture incorporation, and loss, etc.) while saying no to a known physical issue.  No one is doing anyone any favors if a family switches for the wrong reasons.  

So as we plan and pray for our family's choices, sometime I ask God when, how, who?  Why so long?  And I ask, Lord, am I missing your plan for our family? and I hear:

Jeremiah 29: 11-14:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you.”

And I wait.  And I seek God.  And I work on my homestudy questions.  And I put my opinions out on the blogosphere because I really do want every child without a family to find the family that will fit them best for the right reasons.  Once our children are home it won't matter from which program they came; it will only matter that they are connected as children adopted from China--a connection that adult adoptees tell me matters.   

Edited to add: By the time we talked to our agency about special needs, found them discouraging and with more fees, and finally completed our homestudy in October 2011 we were next, next, next.  Someday possibly... 


Nancy said...

You are doing a wonderful job, processing so much. It's good and I think may be exactly where God wants you, doing this processing and gathering of info. He'll reveal His plan in time and then you'll know.

a Tonggu Momma said...

As you know, we have also been waiting in the NSN line for years as well. Thanks for sharing your heart, your thoughts, God's plan for your life.

Anonymous said...

I read the whole series last night. But of course I didn't see the neat tab with "Adoption Story" until I had read a ton of "adoption tagged posts." :) I have sooo much to say...but I'll refrain, and just say, AMAZING. The process is amazing...your writing is amazing...your honesty is amazing. I really enjoyed reading it all.

And...also my dream has always been that my husband's v. would fail. So, I seriously loved that part of the story. That is too incredible.

I will be praying for your family!!!

Karen Visser said...

I found your blog through the 'BABIES!' post on RQ. Congratulations on your daughter! Wonderful news. We have one bio son and two adopted children, both SN, from China (boy and girl, both with limb differences).
I think it's excellent that you have used your blog to shape your opinion and also express it. You obviously have thought this through and have reasons why SN adoption is not (now) for your family. I respect that.

There is one sentence though that struck me in this post: "How is taking the already unknowns involved in adopting a child you have never met and adding it to a known special need (ie whatever is listed on the child's medical file) and the unknowns associated with this need logical?"

The answer is, IMHO, it's NOT logical. Certainly not. The point is... These choices are not logical because these children are already there. Nobody in their right mind would, if they had the choice, choose to have a child with SN's. Every mother that is pregnant, where ever she is in the world, wants a healthy and non SN child. I am sure the biological mothers of my children had that very same wish.

But the thing is... These children already exist. They are living and breathing human beings, waiting somewhere. It is not a matter of wanting to bring them into the world or not (SN and all) but to bring them into your world. It is a choice between a life in an orphanage (or foster family, if they are lucky) or a life in our family.

Some call that 'saving a child'. We have just followed our hearts. We know we cannot save áll children and we will not grow more as a family, for reasons that are more logical and rational than I have mentioned here above (financial reasons, no more bedrooms, car is full...).

But we felt that adopting from the SN program is way, way less scary and risky than other people have assumed it to be. Way less tricky than giving birth. When I was pregnant with my oldest I had no boxes to tick (no spina bifida, please), no choices to make. It was this child, all bets are off. Whatever comes out of you, that's it. No 24 hour period (which gives me the willies, because your child is your child, but that's a whole other discussion)in which you can reconsider your parenthood.

We have felt that SN adoption is just adoption. Our kids have limb differences, which means different shoes for our son, a prosthetic foot, special bicycle, custom made table in school, different cutlery (he has one arm only) and special swimming lessons. My daughter has been operated upon twice, has a special knife for her small hand, and other than that - nothing.

But it has also meant great joy, to see people who are determined to do what they want, to open that jar, unwrap that piece of candy, climb that fence... Funny, loving, happy children. That has vastly outweighed any medical or social issues. So if you still consider SN: go for it, I say!

Sorry to have almost made an entire blog under your blog... :-)
'Thread hijacked' is the icon on RQ, this seems 'blog hijacked'...
My apologies!

I hope you have a speedy traveldate and that all goes well with your daughter and your family.
All the best!

Karen Visser
The Netherlands
Mother to Casper (9, bio), Ying Xin (nearly 8, SN, Wenzhou China) and Hong Jie (5 1/2, SN, Hangzhou China)