Most people donít give adoption much thought. We tend to see it as a fine thing in a vague sort of way but weíre sure itís not for us.
I would have agreed with this years ago but a number of things have happened to change my mind.
Back in 1988 when we married, my husband and I assumed weíd have children right away. He thought two would be nice while I secretly preferred something along the lines of six or more. When three years had passed with no pregnancy I wasnít alarmed exactly; it was like hearing a siren from miles away and wondering where the fire was. Shortly after our fifth wedding anniversary I realized that something really was wrong. That siren was ringing for me.
I went to see a doctor, and then another. And then I saw a infertility specialist. I read books, underwent tests that became increasingly more uncomfortable until finally, I ended up having procedures done that were considerably painful. Iíve taken expensive medications and lived my life by the charts my doctor set up. To back up Western medicine I consulted naturopathic doctors and even took a trip to Chinatown and visited an elderly Chinese herbalist. He gave me a bottle full of slimy, foul smelling black pills. A few years earlier I wouldíve laughed and walked out. After seven years of infertility I bought the pills and took four everyday. With this full scale bombardment of my reluctant reproductive system I got pregnant. Four times actually. Each pregnancy ended in miscarriage before I even realized that I was pregnant in the first place.
Infertility is like being force fed a belly full of bitter water everyday of your life. Iíve felt every emotion from shame, to fear, to rage so boiling hot it frightened me. Itís impossible to live this way for very long and eventually my husband convinced me that there might be another way: adoption.
We looked into adoption very cautiously. As we attended seminars and adoption fairs we both noticed something interesting: we were almost always the only black people there. Although it often felt like it, we werenít the only black couple fighting infertility in America and the adoption seminars and agencies we researched dealt primarily in placing black and mixed raced children. What was going on?
Black culture has always embraced informal, family adoption. When young Susie got pregnant out of wedlock it was common for Grandma or Aunt Lucy to step in and raise the child as their own. If Cousin Della got sick or died leaving young children you could be sure that some relative would take them home. Today millions of black women find themselves raising grandchildren because the AIDS epidemic or the scourge of drug abuse has destroyed their children.
The trouble, I think lies with the perceived red tape that goes along with formal adoption. Unless you are a celebrity or are very rich there are two hurdles that you must clear in order to adopt an American child. First, as crass as it sounds you need ready cash and lots of it. Even if you turn to a state run agency you must be prepared to spend several thousands of dollars. Second, your life will be examined by a disinterested person who is looking for trouble. You will need personal references, your credit will looked into and if youíre married, that stability of your marriage will be probed for any sign of weakness. Many people, black and white find this discovery process to be distasteful but I really canít object to it. Children awaiting adoption are not pets or toys. Every effort must be made to be sure that they donít end up in bad homes. Little Candace Moody and Lisa Steinberg are two examples of what horrors can occur when a helpless child is handed over to an unstable person. Both these children died horrible deaths because they were adopted by the wrong people.
The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) says that there are currently about 53,000 black kids waiting for adoption. Most of them will spend five or more years in foster care. The ones who donít find homes will be essentially set adrift once they reach age 18. Thatís not good enough. At those adoption seminars I met white couples who were willing to adopt black children but they are a drop in an ocean of need. Transracial adoption as controversial as it is only accounts for less than ten percent of adoptions nationwide. Adopting a child takes more than love. If you have the patience to endure the process, room in your heart and home, and yes, the willingness to spend the money, consider adopting. Black parents are desperately needed and the kids canít wait any longer.
Keywords: adoption, infertility, children, marriage, foster