Monday, August 21, 2006

Troubling statistics

I know, I haven't blogged in FOREVER, but I haven't had anything I really wanted to blog about. (Lame excuse, I know.) ANYWAY, today I was reading Mary's Ethiopian adoption blog and she had this link for transracial adoption statistics. It struck such a chord with me that I had to break back into blogging and share with you!

The statistics were part of this New York Times Article about transracial adoption. Interesting article, although I didn't like how (in my opinion) international adoptions seemed to be marginalized (aren't all children deserving of a family, no matter where they come from?), and also how there was such a negative tone to the article. Obviously there are challenges with transracial adoption, and I am glad some of them were presented, but it would have been more balanced (and accurate!) to share some of the sweet "positives", too.

Anyway, as of the year 2000, in white adoptive households, 87% of the adopted children were, you guessed it, white. Just 13% of white adoptive households included a child of a different race. 5% of children adopted by whites are Asian, 1% are American Indian, 6% are "other/multirace", and 1% are black.

If you break it down to just international adoptions, a full 50% of international adoptions are from Asia, 31% from Europe, 11% from Central America, 6% from South America, 1% from the Caribbean, and 1% from Africa. (Ouch.)

Even though I wasn't particularly shocked by these statistics (based on conversations I've had with other adoptive parents), I felt really sad. Now obviously orphans need homes period, no matter where they're from. But there is such a HUGE orphan crisis in Africa, even just in Ethiopia, and yet it seems as if most people on the whole are unwilling to pursue that option (in spite of the fact that it generally costs a lot less and the process is generally more streamlined).

We got a sense pretty early on that it is more socially "acceptable" or at least common to adopt from either Asia or Eastern Europe, and that is in fact part of what drew us to adopt from Ethiopia. You don't have to read too many headlines to know the major, major hardships that many in Africa are facing. The number of orphans in Ethiopia alone is staggering and we felt that the need there was great.

I know potential adoptive parents have all sorts of concerns about adopting transracially, and judging by the statistics they also have some concerns about specifically adopting a black child. I would like to hereby go on record as stating that your child is your child, regardless of his or her skin tone, hair texture, whatever. Yosef and Biniam are my sons, period. I look at them and see my sons, just like I look at Anna and see my daughter. I totally love Yosef and Biniam's beautiful dark skin and brown eyes, just like I delight in Anna's fair skin and pretty blue eyes. You love them because they're your kids, and you love how God made them because that's how God made them and He is an amazingly creative God.

There will always be challenges in raising children, adopted or not, whether they look like you or not. If you are considering adoption, PLEASE don't rule out a child that doesn't look like you simply for convenience sake, or rule out a black child because it seems too hard or uncomfortable in our racially-charged society. God desires for orphans to be cared for and to have families, and He tells us that love and family transcend genetics and outward appearances.

3 comments:

Bek said...

Amen...

Not at all to trivialize the challenges of Transracial adoption in the US or to make light of the issues and challenges that these children may or may not have, but...

When I was in Africa last month I had a few thoughts. First of all, before I left I was feeling like things were about to get harder. Cubby is getting older and he is getting more aware of the things other people say and how they behave. I know the time is near when I will need to start to address these issues. Our practice time.. this time when he was too young to understand...is coming to an end and so it begins. I was thinking a lot about how we will help him navigate the world and hoping we didn't do huge disservice to him and the other memebers of our family....

Then I went to Africa and I saw orphanages filled w/ children. THese kids didn't have an expectation of living to adulthood. THey didn't have enough food. They didn't have clothes. The didn't have anyone who loved them better then the rest of the world...like a mom or dad does. And it occured to me that while I will always need to be on my toes to help my young black son find his place in our community...this is a problem that is unique to a country that has enough. Enough food. Enough stuff. It is a problem that is kind of a luxury because we have figured the rest of this out. I remember thinking that any of these kids would LOVE to have the problems that my son has. Again, I am not saying that he needs to be grateful for being in the situation he is instead of being an orphan (I know gratitude is a touchy issue with adoptees). Anyway...it just made all the things I was worrying about seem a little bit more in perspective. If you have parents that love you and help you find the best the world has to offer...the rest is manageable...

Love this post.

Rachel said...

Sadly, I am not at all surprised by those statistics. I always hear of people adopting from Asia or Russia. A friend of mine couldn't believe you were adopting internationally at all with "all the kids who need homes here" a few weeks ago she returned from a three week mission trip to Namibia (sp) working specifically with orphanages and HIV positive children. Needless to say, she now gets it and is having a tough time falling back into her coorporate America job and lifestyle. The general population has absolutely no idea how the rest of the world lives.

I think there is a lot of fear realated to adoptiong from Africa too. Obviously the AIDS epidemic is huge, and I was recently reading an article about female circumcision in Africa, another obstacle you are less likely to deal with in Asia or Eruope. Asia is also having a huge problem with young girls being sold into prostitution at the ripe age of 7. We live in a scary world and I admire all that you are doing to advocate for international adoption. I'm also thankful that I was born here.

Jeannett Gibson said...

Well, we all know that God laughs hardest when you plan...that said, Andy and I have every intention of adopting, and specifically, more than likely, from Africa or at least a black child (Brazil maybe?..but they sure need you to stay a long time!). My mom was utterly confused by this since "well, can't you have your OWN? And, does it have to be black? Why would you purposely take on all that responsibility? Isn't it expensive?" When I went on to explain that yes, we did hope to have biological children, we still felt that there is such a need out there and if we eat one less Big Mac it won't really matter. Besides, Americans find all kinds of ways to spend more on cars, why can't we find the way to finance adoptions? What really convinced me that this was something I truly wanted to do, was when I was looking at AAI's website and there were graduate pictures...here were kids who previously had little hope of making it to adulthood or even being elderly, and they were now graduating from prestigious universities and high schools from around the country...the issue wasn't "college" (let's not go into that again!) but the idea of the opportunity and choices they now had that they may not have had if left in the orphanages because it's too "hard" for Americans. If I could give a child those types of choices, and my biggest "issue" was dealing with skin color (and don't get me wrong, I'm sure that will be huge), it still wouldn't be huge enough to justify NOT doing it. When I was done, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised when my mom said "well, it's exciting and I think it's good for our family as a whole. It'll be exciting to maybe shake things up a bit". That made me happy. I hope to help others understand that adoption isn't a weird thing, or something that only "those people" do...that it's important and worthy and in line with God's Will for His children. And, I'll admit that that first drive home after Bible Study at the Heldt's I was as bewildered as my mom that they were adopting TWO and from Africa! Slowly though, I'm super excited to join in the fun! (Thanks Heldts!)

Wow. That was long.

 

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