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Family has a deep and lasting impact on everyone, it can be good or bad. The most important thing is love and honesty regardless of your families formation: biological, blended, fostering or adoption.
Our family is a mix. We have two sons and a daughter. All three are unique in their gifts, talents, personalities and challenges. They are equally a blessing in our life and like most parents – we couldn’t imagine our life being normal without any of them.
Our family was tough to form. I suffered major post natal depression after both boys. We wanted more kids but the thought of going back “there” seemed unbearable.
Before having kids my husband and I both discussed and were drawn to the idea of adoption. It seemed a simple concept to us – one plus one equals two right??
There were kids that needed families due to the sad circumstances in their life, or poverty in their country; and there are parents who would love to have more kids in their family. I guess my naïve view was that there must not be enough adoptive parents because the statistics on kids in orphanages or permanent foster care as state wards was growing out of control. But as an accountant I should know that one plus one equals whatever you want it to be. And in the case of kids needing a family – the answer is sadly not two.
Starting the adoption journey
So we started down the adoption route in NSW – we were screened and attended a three day workshop where it felt the social workers were doing everything to talk us out of adoption. I was confused – it seemed odd they needed to spend three days telling everyone that their adopted child would be damaged, not perfect and sometimes hard to manage.
There was value in learning the impacts of early trauma on a child, how they might work through emotions and how much more loss they have to deal with. But the social workers at the workshop made adoption sound like a bad thing and a last resort for infertile parents.
This attitude in NSW DOCs really bothered me. Every biological parent I know (ourselves included) knows that kids don’t arrive perfect. They cry, they throw tantrums, they fail subjects at school, they bully or are bullied and use fowl language when you are out of earshot. But most parents love their kids and do the best they can for them, because they are their kids, not because they are perfect. The remainder of parents create our sadly very large foster care system.
Undeterred, we decided to push ahead. If a little child needed a family we were not going to take away that opportunity because of ‘some’ (not all) tired government workers.
Choosing inter-country adoption
Fortunately we had the opportunity to go to Hong Kong with my work for a few years and we discovered expat adoption groups for Australians existed in many countries – including Hong Kong.
We found an adoption facilitator who had a good reputation and perfect track record of honest adoptions. They did not charge exorbitant fees for services and also provided verifiable background information for all the children that they did adoptions for. I don’t believe that the majority of people in adoption are corrupt – I am a realist and accept that some are. We were adamant that we would not feed corruption or become part of that system.
Through our adoption facilitator we went through the legal processes, home assessments, checks and proof of financial stability. We provided extended family references showing that an adopted child was wanted and would be loved and accepted by everyone in our family circle were completed.
Bringing our daughter home
After two years and turning our little study in our little apartment in Hong Kong into what seemed like an international law office – we arrived home in Australia with our beautiful daughter and as a family of five.
The process was long, bumpy and scary. But when I met my daughter five years ago, who weighed less at nine-months-old than my boys did at birth, I just wanted to hug and feed her.
Her full adoption circumstances are her own to tell when she is an adult. We cry over the loss of her birth family together, are thankful she was able to spend nine months with her birth mum – and are so grateful for all the support we have received from our friends and family. This extended network continues to support the great work being done in Ethiopia.
We live in a world full of sad things but there was a happy ending for these five smiling faces that have a loving bond for life. It may seem picture perfect, it’s not. There will always be heartache and challenges. But that goes for every human being because no family is perfect, but a loving family is the best start to any person’s life.
Poverty leads to children without family
After spending time overseas in the orphanages and in charities that work at trying to keep children with their birth parents and the seemingly impossible task of helping them – my heart was signed sealed and delivered to our daughter. The orphanages do the best they can with little resources. Thankfully, many adoptive families form long-lasting relationships and provide financial support to their child’s birth country. Feeding programs, removal of social stigma of unwed mothers are all things we hope to see happen in these countries so that more birth parents can survive and raise their children. However poverty is a reality and it leads to death and a lack of education and the result is children without family who are institutionalised. I guess I harp on this point to combat the ill-informed comments that people make about adoption so they can feel good about themselves or be like a celebrity. It's simply not true.
Improving adoption in Australia
It took months of hard work to adopt our daughter overseas. This is compared to the years it would have taken to adopt domestically in Australia. I believe the development of a national, committed department for adoption is a great start for Australia. Having a dedicated government adoption body would prevent overwhelming our already under-resourced local community services departments who need to focus on keeping Australian kids safe – either with their birth parents or if necessary in foster or adopted families.
The hoops the Australian government makes you jump through are safe guards. And the experience we had with the Australian Consulates on the ground in Kenya and Hong Kong was the complete opposite to those who churn paperwork and say "no" to everything back in NSW. They see the poverty and the orphans, they see the honesty in the motives of Australian families and are amazingly supportive (with no financial benefit to them – just extra paperwork that they probably don’t get rewarded for at performance review time).
We are stoked that the positive side of adoption is now out in the media. The past adoption practices created heartache – but I have many friends and now my kids have many friends who are happy and safe because of the majority of people who do the right thing and the openness that now surrounds adoption. We hope the plans to remove the red tape from adoption in Australia succeed and that National Adoption awareness week helps to remove the negative stigma around it. The world can do with more loving families and smiling faces.