Friday, April 17, 2009

Immigration's Approval Notice

Today we received the Notice of Favorable Determination from the USCIS (Immigration). That was the last step in the process and now we just wait to be matched with our child! We were officially waiting as of March 23 and the current wait time is about a year. The wait could end up being as long as 16 months (wait times are just estimates and things can change along the way that may make the wait longer or shorter). After we are matched with our child (the "Referral"), we have to wait approximately 3 months before the Court date (where an Ethiopian Judge officially grants you custody) and then you travel to bring your child home about a month after you pass court. We are super excited!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ethics in Adoption - blog by Randy Cohen

There is a fair amount of controversy over ethics in international adoption (especially with Madonna's failed adoption attempt in Malawi). I really liked Randy Cohen's view on this subject in his latest blog in the New York Times: April 6, 2009, 5:30 pm The Moral of the Story Madonna and Child - by Randy Cohen Several readers assert that rather than undertake foreign adoption with its attendant problems, ethical and otherwise, Madonna and others should adopt locally. Sadly, as many people who have attempted this can confirm — and as some readers note — it’s not easy, and sometimes it’s all but impossible. I know a couple of families who turned to foreign adoptions only after being thwarted in their other efforts to have children, including through adoption here in the U.S. Which raised this question for some readers: isn’t there a greater moral obligation to help those close by? It was once commonly thought so. Samuel Johnson, the great 18th-century moralist, said as much to James Boswell, as recorded in the latter’s “Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides”: “A man should first relieve those who are nearly connected with him, by whatever tie; and then, if he has anything to spare, may extend his bounty to a wider circle.” Particular relationships do entail particular obligations. Parents have duties to their children that they do not have to strangers. But national borders do not define such relationships: they are not moral borders. And “nearly connected” has a different meaning today than it did in the 18th century. Our ease of travel (if “ease” can be said to apply to anything involving an airport) as well as the flow of images and ideas, both foster and make increasingly apparent the connectedness of humanity. The philosopher Peter Singer is a notable proponent of the worldwide reach of our moral obligations, a subject he takes up in his book “One World: The Ethics of Globalization.” Another concern readers have: Madonna’s motives. Is she publicity crazed? Is it all egomania? Johnson had something to say about Madonna, too, if not by name. (He was prescient but not that prescient.) “To act from pure benevolence is not possible for finite beings. Human benevolence is mingled with vanity, interest or some other motive.” I believe Freud reached a similar conclusion about our tangled motives, albeit from a different angle. Or to put it another way, failing to achieve sainthood ought not disqualify anyone from parenthood. Last Friday, a court in Malawi rejected Madonna’s application to adopt a 3-year-old girl named Chifundo ”Mercy” James. Judge Esmie Chondo affirmed that adoptive parents must reside in the country for at least 18 months, a provision meant to thwart child-trafficking (and one that was waived when Madonna adopted a Malawian boy last year). Clearly celebrities should not use their status to skirt adoption regulations. But some children’s advocates oppose not only this adoption, but international adoption in general. Is it ethical for families from wealthy nations to adopt children from poorer countries? There is a creepy evocation of colonialism when a rich American or European swoops into a poor African nation and grabs a child, as if the country were a baby plantation. Critics charge that the adoptive parents benefit from the persistence of poverty. They do, but in much the same way as Lenny Bruce described the modus operandi of Jonas Salk, J. Edgar Hoover and himself: “These men thrive upon the continuance of disease, segregation and violence.” That is, they respond to but do not promote human misery. (O.K., except for Hoover.) Is it ethical for families from wealthy nations to adopt children from poorer countries? What’s more, poverty is not the sole reason children are abandoned. It was China’s one-child policy that made so many girls available for adoption. Genocide orphaned thousands of Rwandan children. AIDS still reduces children to wretchedness in many parts of Africa. Adoptive parents do not seek to protract anyone’s torment but to build a family and help a child, actions we esteem. But as far as helping children, adoptive parents might do so more effectively simply by donating money (as Madonna has also done in Malawi). A fraction of the typical $20,000 spent on an adoption or the $250,000 it takes to raise a middle-class American child could assist a great many African kids. But the ethical obligation to help suffering children does not apply only to those who wish to adopt; it is a general duty we all share. We are morally required to aid a child who lies bleeding on our doorstep. Or a child across the street. Or across town. Or across the Atlantic Ocean. Rather than merely urge adopting families to redirect their expenditures, we should reallocate the money we ourselves spend on a ski weekend in Aspen, a flat-screen TV for the dog’s room, a $3 billion stealth destroyer for our Navy ($4 billion if equipped with optional — and fictional — leather upholstery). Some groups, notably Save the Children, based in London, assert that the prospect of a foreign adoption encourages desperate parents to abandon their children in the hope of securing a better life for them. This claim is unconvincing. Families are demolished not by the possibility of adoption but the reality of poverty or disease or war, according to Dr. Jane Aronson, a pediatrician specializing in adoption medicine. It is vital to address these harrowing conditions, but that does not preclude adoption, she says; “To help one child is a worthy thing to do.” Save the Children is more convincing when it argues that children should be raised by their families in their own cultures. This is a laudable goal, but to achieve it, Aronson says, much needs to be done to “help rebuild communities around the world so families can receive proper social services and needn’t give up their children.” Indeed, Judge Chondo’s decision does not mean that Mercy James will be raised by a relative. She has been placed in an orphanage — albeit, one of Malawi’s best, the judge says (some consolation, I suppose, if you like your ironies grim). As long as there are orphans, the ethical question is not whether it is O.K. to adopt but how to do it. Jacqueline Novogratz, the head of the Acumen Fund, a non-profit that promotes anti-poverty efforts throughout the world, says: “Reputable adoption agencies know where children come from. Some children are abandoned and some are placed in orphanages when their families can’t afford to raise them. Finding those children good, stable, healthy homes could change their lives immeasurably. Going through the right agencies is key.” Sadly, such scrupulousness, while necessary, may not matter much in the end. If Malawi (or Russia or Ethiopia or Guatemala) threw open its doors to everyone on earth who wished to adopt — no rules, no red tape, no embarrassing Madonna-indulgences — it would barely diminish the heart-rending parade of homeless or orphaned children stretching to the horizon. Most estimates put their number above 100 million worldwide. And who will adopt those who are not adorable infants — a traumatized 11-year-old Pakistani street kid or a 5-year-old Nigerian with AIDS or, for that matter, a teenager shunted around New York’s foster care system? One other consideration: would endorsing foreign adoption compel us to stop teasing Madonna? Happily, no. While she seems to have acted creditably here, as long as she dons a T-shirt emblazoned with the unconvincing slogan “Kabbalists Do it Better,” let the mockery be unconfined. She’s rich, she’s glamorous — a self-made success, still a pop star at 50. Of course we make fun of her; we need to.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What is a Referral?

A Referral means you are matched with your child. So we really hope that at around this time next year, we will get the call we've been waiting for and receive our Referral! Once a child is brought to the orphanage, all the necessary medical testing is done and then the child is referred to the next family on the wait list that matches the criteria set by the waiting family (age, gender, whether open to special needs, etc.). Then the agency calls to let you know you have a child (the "Referral")! They send a photo of your child along with a medical report. You then have up to one week to meet with a doctor about the medical report and "accept" your Referral. Once you officially accept the Referral, a court date is set approximately 3 months later where an Ethiopian judge rules on the adoption. They base their decision on many things, including your dossier and the circumstances surrounding the child's orphan status (relinquishment of rights, etc. including as I understand, that if a birth parent is living, he/she has to appear in court). If you don't pass court the first time, you typically will have additional opportunities to pass court. Once you pass court, you travel 3-4 weeks later to meet your child! You then spend a week in Ethiopia before bringing your child home. It seems so far off. We are just glad to be officially waiting for a Referral.