Thursday, September 27, 2012

And so it begins again... Adoption Orientation

Let the adoption craziness begin again! Photo:

We made the first step in the adoption process! Woot! Woot! We attended LDS Family Services' Adoption Orientation meeting. This is the third time we've attended this meeting. The first time was at the beginning of 2009, right before I graduated from BYU. I didn't know what my future post-graduation was going to be, so I really wanted to try adopting (since that was the only thing I was sure about). It had been on my mind for so long. But we went and we didn't feel ready or on the same page about it, so we waited almost a year or so before we attended again and actually started the paperwork. That had a "happy ending" when we adopted our son! So, it's exciting to think of what might come out of this go-around... There are lots of unknowns. Adoption is exciting like that. :)

We are assigned to a different branch of the agency this time around. So we'll have a new caseworker and a different set of people working to help us adopt. That should turn out to be a blessing, even though we really liked our last caseworker. Because our last caseworker will be sure to put our name/profile out there if a potential matching situation came up, so it will be like we have two branches of the agency on our side and rooting for us. That would be awesome!

At the meeting, they handed out the initial paperwork, outlined the process, talked about any recent changes, emphasized open adoption as something to very seriously consider (because open adoption vs closed adoption has soooo many benefits to everyone involved), and then opened it up for questions. We were 1 of 3 couples there who had adopted once before. The rest (about 4 more couples) were newbies, most likely all childless. There was a cute young Asian couple - that made me happy, because the vast majority of Utahns are white and more specifically, couples who adopt through LDSFS are white, white, and more white. We all introduced ourselves, and we didn't get a babysitter in time so we had Kal there with us as well. I worried he would disrupt the meeting, but he did really well and was actually a great addition to the meeting, I think. He was a blessing from adoption, so other couples played with him and seemed happy to hear our story.

We filled out the paperwork we could while we were sitting there and immediately turned it back in - signing and dating a paper saying we attended the meeting, a paper with a long description of the services LDSFS provides during the process, and a short "application" with a little bit of information about us that just gets us into the system. There was additional paperwork for people who have divorced before or who have had a voluntary sterilization procedure before. You need special permission to adopt through LDSFS if you've had a past divorce or sterilization. Neither one of those applied to us, so we filled out the first few sheets and handed them back in.

On the short application, it asks for our current Bishop (leader of our LDS congregation), but we recently moved and changed ward (congregation) boundaries, so we had to look up who our current Bishop is supposed to be. He has to fill out a reference letter for us, but he hasn't even met us yet. So, to-do list: set up a meeting with our Bishop and help him get to know us so that he can - in good conscience - recommend us for adopting. The agency mailed him a letter, so he'll receive that before he even knows we're in his ward! I called him and left a message, so hopefully he'll connect the two and get back to us. He may want to call our former Bishop and ask him about us, so I'm curious as to what he'd say. I always get nervous about references!

A change in the process this time around is that we have to take a form to a doctor or infertility specialist to fill out, stating the treatments we've sought, the tests we've taken, what our chances of conceiving are, and whether he/she would recommend us to adopt based on his/her medical opinion. Apparently the number of hopeful adoptive couples far outnumber the number of available children for adoption, so LDSFS will prioritize couples with infertility over couples who just want to adopt but could conceive on their own. I'm curious to see what my infertility specialist will say on the paperwork.

So, NEXT STEPS: Meet our new Bishop and pester him about giving us a good recommendation. And get the infertility form filled out by my former infertility specialist. When the agency gets these documents back, we will sit down with a caseworker and talk about whether we are eligible to adopt based on their old and new criteria.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Stealing" Another Woman's Child


Inspired by this post: Adopted or Abducted?

I've been reading a ton of anti-adoption literature lately. I don't know how I came across it to begin with, but it had me all curious. I wanted to know more about why there were so many people passionately against it. So I did some research... and HOLY COW, there's a lot of adoption hatred out there. A lot of it comes from people who were wronged by adoption in some way (women who felt coerced into placing their child for adoption, people who were adopted and struggled with having a closed adoption, people who think that adoption agencies are ethically corrupt baby-selling institutions, etc.)... The emotions are intense and the stories are sad.....

And I agree with them.

One thing I love, love, love about Kal's birthmother is that she didn't take her decision lightly. She thought it over her entire pregnancy and met with a counselor before she definitively made the choice to pursue adoption. And then she stuck with her decision despite outside influences that were telling her otherwise. That's the way an adoption plan should be made. It's a woman's choice and she shouldn't feel coerced into it. I hope she never regrets her decision and I hope she and Kal can form a great (healing) relationship when he's older. Now that I know what it feels like to be a mother, I can't imagine the selfishness it would take on my part to keep him forever separated from his first mother. I don't necessarily know what I'm doing while I'm trying to navigate the unknown waters of open adoption, but I would never forgive myself if I didn't try.

In my anti-adoption research, I've been learning more about the time in America when unwed mothers had a huge stigma attached to them and there was a lot of "hush, hush... let's keep this pregnancy a secret... let's send you off and you are going to put your baby up for adoption and then you are coming home as if it never happened" going on. This was wrong. When your parents just tell you that you're going to place your baby for adoption and they send you off to a maternity home and you're drugged up and not informed of your rights and you come home empty-handed and grieving - that's wrong. I hope we are changing as a society and that women are given options and education rather than societal pressures when they are trying to make a decision regarding the parenting of their child.

There were many, many women who were victims of what is called the "Baby Scoop Era" - a period of time from about the 1940's to the 1970's (some say even later) - in which there was a huge spike in the number of adoptions, but these women have later spoken out about the loss they incurred and how devastating it was to be separated from their child when they didn't want it - they were made to believe it was their only option. Their child was "stolen" from them and usually lost forever to a closed adoption, because they were not informed of any other choice and the vast majority placed their babies for adoption whether they wanted to or not. This era has tainted the general public's perception of adoption for decades. It's why there are so many people still searching for their birthparents and why some people didn't know they were adopted until they were adults. It was all a secret thing, not out in the open. This was the wrong way to go about things!

Agencies "promoting" adoption by seeking out pregnant women and coercing them in ways (by bribing, etc.) to give up their babies is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Agencies who use a young, impressionable pregnant girl's emotions against her are wrong. Baby-selling is wrong. Treating her like cattle - just trying to get a product from her - is wrong. Building her up into a Saint for placing her baby vs telling her she's not doing what's best for her child if she doesn't place... is wrong. Adoption as a business just doesn't sit well with me. Most for-profit adoption agencies don't sit well with me. Now that I'm a part of this whole adoption world, I've made so many connections with other families whose lives have been touched by adoption in some way. And the stories I've heard!! I don't know how agencies get away with some of their practices and not consider it unethical.

International adoption can be terribly unethical/corrupt as well. I used to want to adopt internationally, and I'm sure one day I will... but I worry about getting involved in something when I don't necessarily know what's going on on the other end. I read an article recently about child trafficking in Guatemala - an American couple was ordered by a Guatemalan judge to return their adopted daughter to her birthmother who claimed she was kidnapped. I've heard stories of women coerced into prostitution rings, all the prostituting creates babies, and then the mothers are told they aren't in a position to take care of their child (which they probably aren't at that point), and then the babies are sold to rich Americans, etc. who think they are saving a child from an orphanage or a life of prostitution (which they are at that point). It's a vicious cycle, because the children do need good homes, but they're being created that way... so someone can make a profit. And there are agencies that tell birthmothers that it's the best for her child when she doesn't know any better... when in reality what her child needs is her, not necessarily a richer American lifestyle. That doesn't mean better! A lot of them are in no position to say they want to keep their child when they're told how better their life would be if they were adopted. These adoptions are closed and a mother is separated from her child, unnecessarily.

As an adoptive mother, I know from my end of things how "baby hungry" adoptive couples can be. And whatever life circumstances they're in that brought them to adoption were probably filled with lots of hardship and deep emotion. That's when things can get shady and ethically corrupt. Emotions can make you lose your integrity. Emotions can make you manipulative. Adoptive couples who pressure a young, impressionable pregnant girl into making a decision she would later regret are wrong. Thinking she owes you anything (feeling entitled to someone else's child because you deserve it) is wrong. Misrepresenting how open you want the adoption to be after placement or saying anything the birthmother wants to hear in order for her to pick you is wrong.

All the anti-adoption opinions out there make me sad, but I totally get it. Adoption is as much a "tearing apart" of a family as it is a "putting together" of one. Even the best adoptions are filled with grief and sadness and drama and unhealed wounds and hurt feelings. I would consider myself an adoption advocate, but I would clarify and say that I do not think adoption is always the right choice. Many, many, many times over it is not the right choice and can cause more problems than it solves. But it is an option! A miracle of an option in some cases. And should be included in the counseling and education of anyone with an unplanned pregnancy and hard circumstances. But it should not be pushed on anyone, even if it seems like the best option. That's for the expectant parent(s) to decide.

In our future adoptions, I'm going to do all I can to make sure my standards of an ethical adoption are being met or I want nothing to do with it. Including my own actions. I need to leave the situation with a clear conscience. I need to keep my own emotions in check and not overstep my bounds when it comes to a birthmother making a decision. And if I feel like she isn't well informed on her options, I'll be the one to tell her. Even if that lessens my chances of adopting a baby in a "timely matter."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Genesis Group & Race Relations


First off I'll explain what the Genesis Group is, for those who don't know:

"The Genesis Group was established in October 1971 by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a dependent branch to serve the needs of African-American Latter-day Saints... The Genesis Group meets on the first Sunday of each month from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the meetinghouse located at 6710 South 1300 East in Salt Lake City, Utah. Everyone is welcome to attend. The monthly meetings feature a fireside format with guest speakers, a Black gospel song as a practice hymn, and testimonies. The organization operates with Relief Society, Singles, Youth, and Primary auxiliaries."

There aren't very many African-American members of the LDS Church, so many African-American Saints over the years have felt out of place or disconnected to the Gospel. The Genesis Group is super welcoming of anybody and everybody from any background, race, or nationality. Differences (rather than conformity) are celebrated. It's a separate congregation, but it doesn't replace the one you're already going to. It's just extra. So, those familiar with the Church's setup... if your kid is in Primary in your ward and you take them to Genesis, they'd be in Primary in Genesis as well - two groups of friends, as I see it!

Personally, I love it. I love being around black people. I'm most comfortable in that environment. Good Church-going black folks who love everybody. Those are my favorite kinda people. I also think kids should be exposed to diversity, so I 100% support the many white adoptive couples who bring their African-American children to the Genesis Group to expose them to people of all kinds of races and people who look more like them. I don't want Kal to feel out of place by never seeing black people (actually, we'll probably never have to worry about this seeing as how Zay and I do hair and we have black people at our house all the time, but I still want to give Genesis props).

According to the 2011 Census estimates, Utah's race demographics look like this:

White: 91.9% (78.1% in the U.S.)
Black: 1.3% (13.1% in the U.S.)
American Indian and Alaska Native: 1.5% (1.2% in the U.S.)
Asian: 2.2% (5.0% in the U.S.)
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 1.0% (0.2% in the U.S.)
Persons reporting two or more races: 2.2% (2.3% in the U.S.)
Persons of Hispanic or Latino Origin: 13.2% (16.7% in the U.S.)
White persons not Hispanic: 80.1% (63.4% in the U.S.)

Of course we've got more Polynesians than the average! But the percentage of white vs. black is pretty skewed compared to the U.S. as a whole. Black people tend to seek each other out and then ask each other, "What brought you to Utah??" Ha ha.

That's why I like the Genesis Group.

Zay, on the other hand, has a completely different view on it and I have to respect that. He worked in a salon once with a bunch of black women (oh, boy)... not just any black women, but outspoken black-power support-your-own-kind type of black women. Zay completely clashes with those kind of women. With those kind of black people. And they attend Genesis to support their black community, so he has a negative view of the whole thing. You know... Why do black people have to have their own special Church? They always want to be treated special. They can't do anything on their own merit. They've got to act high and mighty like they're owed something because of something (slavery) that ain't got nothing to do with the present day or their present condition... Those are some of his thoughts.

He came home once talking about this debate they were having at the salon about two guys (a black guy and a white guy) going into an interview for the same job. All else being equal, who's more likely to get the job? The women were saying the white guy would, because people are racist and the black guy wouldn't get a fair shot. Zay says, why doesn't the black guy just work hard enough to get the job? Life isn't fair. If he's at a disadvantage, he just needs to work harder. The end. Quit asking for a handout. Work harder to get the job in the first place. Society doesn't owe you anything. Quit complaining. It's embarrassing. They were shocked at him and said he was being disrespectful of his own people and he should do more to fight for equal rights.

The women were saying that slavery didn’t happen to them personally, but the repercussions from slavery trickled down their family line and affects them today. Zay says, everyone of any race is dealt a hand when they are born and they can't choose what hand is dealt them. Some white folks are dealt bad hands too, but you don't see them trying to pinpoint an event in history that is making their particular hand difficult and trying to get someone to give them something or treat them special because of it. Life is unfair. Get over it. White people today don't need to pay for what their ancestors did.

They called him white sympathetic, as a derogatory term. He said black power is just as racist as white power, absolutely no difference. One is just rationalized because of past misdeeds against blacks.

They said that he wasn't grateful for what the pioneers in black history did to help make the necessary changes in achieving equal rights: abolishing slavery and the whole civil rights movement. He said it’s cool that he has the rights that he has today because of what was done before - but they did that so that black people today wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore and could live in harmony with other races. They're probably rolling around in their graves right now because black folks today can’t forgive. The true meaning of the LDS religion, of Christianity in general, is to love your neighbor… whether they are white, black, Polynesian, Latino, or whatever! Not to love your own kind and put them on a pedestal. That’s anti-Christian. It's wrong to support a black politician or black movie star or black musician or black artist just because they're black. It's not "supporting black people," it's racism. Support the politicians who hold your same values, go see movies that are good, listen to good music, etc. The race of the person shouldn't have anything to do with the choice. Love and support and encourage all people equally.

They said black people who are trying to succeed need the whole black community behind them in support, because they're not going to get much support from anywhere else. They said black people need to stick together. Zay said he won't support one person over another because of their race. That's just furthering the segregation and inequality and holding a grudge.

Soooo, I'm somewhere in the middle of this. More leaning towards Zay's way of thinking. But at the same time, I totally support something like the Genesis Group. There's a feeling of welcoming and comfort that I just don't get from other wards in the Church. Maybe if all the wards felt like that... I don't know. They should all feel like that.

Anyways, we have conversations about race relations a lot around here... given that we're an interracial couple and we have a bi-racial child we're trying to raise in this crazy world that is going to define/label him by the way he looks and the color of his skin. And people are going to expect him to "choose a side" and segregate himself at some point. Ugh.

What say ye?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Temporary Babyproofing: Mommy Fail or Win?

There are a few places in the house that I haven't officially babyproofed, just because we'll be moving soon and I'll just have to take it all down and put it all back up in the new place. So, I've rigged up a few of the cabinets and doorways and whatnot in ways so that Kal stays safe, but on the outside they look ghetto! Ha! I don't care. Whatever works. I thought I was pretty clever. :P

Up until this point, he's been really timid when it comes to exploring the house and he doesn't get into things he shouldn't. He won't go past certain points or touch certain things, and stays in areas that he knows. But he's started to realize he can climb on top of things and open doors/drawers, etc., so he's been pushing those boundaries little by little. I can deter him pretty easily, though. Like with this:

He gets distracted with the fact that there's something on the door that he doesn't even bother trying to open it. Ha! Silly boy. He's just so chill, I wish I could explain how he is. Not an explorer. Yet. Our new place will have to be babyproofed for reals, though. His chill personality won't keep him out of things forever. Plus, the adoption agency likes to see that we've got that kind of thing in place. So, part of getting ready for adopting Baby #2 will be to get rid of the MacGyver-ed babyproofing and make some legit safety changes. That'll be one of my top priorities as soon as we move.

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