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Why the Decline in International Adoptions?

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John M. Simmons

Recently, my Google alerts for "adoption" and "international adoption" went crazy. It seemed that every news outlet in the U.S. had picked up on the story. International adoptions into the U.S. were down 18% in 2013. They are down about 65% from their high in 2004. I am really, really sad.

Tell me that it is necessary because children were being trafficked. I will completely agree that there were corrupt people and systems that needed to be stopped. Say that "we should worry about our own children" and I will tell you that I am a citizen of this world and I love children in all countries, my own included. I simply don't believe in borders when it comes to children needing families. Philosophize eloquently about how children are better left in their native cultures and I will tell you from shared experience that children in orphanages do not live the culture of their country, but the culture of an alternate reality that only exists in institutions. While a child may be better off adopted by parents in their own country, they are not better off in orphanages than they would be in foreign homes (with very few exceptions). Tell me that if adoption didn't exist, your own first mother would not have placed you for adoption and would have cared for you as only she could have, and I will cry with you over the possibility that you may be correct.

I am not "for" international adoption. I am not against it. I am "for" children having loving parents and being in homes where they have a support network. I am against children growing up in dormitories with change-out caregivers. I am against children being left without help simply because a legal definition of adulthood, in whichever country we are talking about, has been reached. I know that I wasn't ready to go without family support when I was 16. I wasn't ready at 18 or 21. Hell, I'm not mature enough to go without family support now, and in a few months I'll cross the half-century mark!

I'm not just sad, I'm frustrated. I am frustrated that there are outspoken people who evangelize that adoption is politically incorrect. I am even more frustrated that there are people weak enough to succumb to those words without consideration, simply because they are afraid of what others might think.

My soul is bewildered as I watch Western society preach that we shouldn't have to do things that are hard and that people who care should stop trying to "guilt" others into doing things that they don't want to do. I am tired. No; I'm exhausted from watching people stand back while believing that it serves adoptive parents right when they have bitten off more than they can chew. Didn't they read the news stories? Didn't they watch "60 Minutes"? Didn't they do the research and know the possibilities that come with adopting traumatized children? Yes. Yes, as a matter of fact, we did know. We knew that bringing these children into our lives could damage our homes and families. We understood something else. We understood that the alternative for these children was failure, and sometimes, death. We trusted YOU. In most cases, we were right to trust. Our friends, neighbors and even complete strangers often come forward to help during the most difficult of times. To those of you who help, thank you. Thank you for understanding that there is little reason to save children from death by feeding them, if we don't also give them a chance at life.

Yes, adoption is hard. Sometimes it can be expensive, though I loathe the misconception that it always is. It is possible to adopt while spending very little money. Sometimes adoptions fail and promises of forever families are broken. But the silent adoption masses are those who move forward a day at a time. They realize that adoption is an imperfect fix for a perfect catastrophe. Amputation of a limb is never a good solution even if it is the only option. But a happy and successful life is possible after such a tragedy.

Tell me that the reason for a decline in adoption is because of laws to protect children and families. Tell me that it is because countries are making it more difficult. Tell me it is because the "orphan crisis is overstated." Tell me whatever you want.

No matter which cause is the major contributor to a reduction in adoptions, to me, there is only one real reason. People are holding back because they know it will be difficult. I live in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. The tallest and strongest trees grow on the north slopes where snow is deep and sunlight is limited. Trees on southward facing slopes are worth very little. The generations that built Western culture understood that nothing good comes without sacrifice. They gave up things important to them to make life better for future generations. But even in doing so, they became better and stronger people. Their children were made strong and resilient through service and trials. They knew how to cope when winds of adversity blew hard and cold in their faces.

I never would have wished the difficulties that came with some of our adoptions onto my older biological sons. But those difficulties made them who they are. Those very challenging times shaped my sons and strengthened them. Those trials taught them compassion and how to serve others. I am glad that my wife and I decided not to shelter our children to facilitate their progression into perfect weakness. It was good that my children were not kept away from situations that built them.

I am sick-to-death of explanations for why adoptions are declining. I want solutions. I want children out of orphanages and "systems." I want parents to give children homes and families. I want people to do things that are hard. The most difficult things I have done in my life have been the best things I ever did. They are also the things that have eventually brought me the most happiness. I want YOU to experience the life that comes with taking a child out of a "system." It is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. Adoption is the most beautiful mountain that you will ever be injured on. Please help me if you find me along the trail. I promise to do the same for you.

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