A fascinating article about assisted reproduction ran in Sunday’s New York Times. Melanie Thernstrom and her husband, Michael, formed their family by using the services of an egg donor and two surrogates. Their two children, Violet and Kieran, were born five days apart. The Thernstroms call them “twiblings.”
Much has been said and written about the article, but most interesting to me is what Ms. Thernstrom writes about adoption. She and her husband considered adopting–after four failed rounds of IVF– but felt the process was too expensive and unpredictable.
I had friends who spent all of their money trying to adopt, only to have things fall through again and again — birth mothers who changed their minds, foreign programs that were discontinued. I researched adoption in China but discovered that the criteria excluded us. When Michael’s parents adopted his sister in the 1970s, there was an abundance of babies in the United States in need of homes, but the widespread use of birth control and abortion, among other factors, has caused the supply of infants available for adoption in the subsequent three decades to plummet to a fraction of what it was then. Knowing that, I was still taken aback by how discouraging one adoption agency was about our prospects for “competing” against other couples. “Most birth mothers do prefer younger women,” the woman informed me. “But you’ll get a letter from your doctor, certifying you are in excellent health for the social worker anyway.”
“Right,” I said, thinking about the arthritic condition that caused the chronic pain I had been struggling with for many years.
This is not the first time I’ve heard or read about prospective parents discouraged from adopting because the process takes too long, is unpredictable, and can be expensive. Not to mention the lifetime of intrusive questions adoptive parents often endure from observers–”Have you met her ‘real’ mother?” “Are they ‘really’ brother and sister?” ”What do you know about her health history?”–and the challenges that may accompany children who have endured the rigors of institutional or foster care for extended periods.
Adoption is not for everyone. We know that. But wouldn’t it be nice if the “system” didn’t discourage prospective adoptive parents at every turn? Yesterday, I posted a perfect example of this. Families of the Guatemala900 have been waiting four years for their children, who are housed in orphanages. Upon hearing such stories, who can blame someone for deciding adoption is too big a risk?
On that note, this announcement from the U.S. State Department about adoption from Brazil, which I saw posted on the PEAR website. (Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform).
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues
January 8, 2010
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR ALL PARENTS WISHING TO ADOPT IN BRAZIL:
We continue to work with the Brazilian government to establish how the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention, which entered into force for the U.S. in 2008, will affect future adoptions in Brazil. The Government of Brazil has selected a potential U.S. adoption agency for accreditation in Brazil and is proceeding with its internal accrediting process. As of this date, no U.S. adoption agency has been accredited to operate in Brazil, and it may take a year for the process to be completed. Therefore, parents should expect a lengthy adoption process. Prospective adoptive parents should also be aware that children available for international adoption in Brazil are generally over 5 years of age, sibling pairs, or have special needs.
Like most people, I believe in transparent and ethical adoption. What concerns me are the children whose formative years are spent in orphanages while adults troubleshoot the system, and the prospective parents who are discouraged from adopting them.