First of all I’d like to say Thank You! to everyone who has congratulated us and wished our family well. We really appreciate the support we have received from our family and friends, both locally and online.
I’ve had a number of people ask me why we chose to adopt from Russia, and I’m sure others are wondering but not asking. Some simply had never heard of such a thing, though I don’t think international adoption is terribly uncommon or unknown in the United States (some questions came from folks I know overseas). I haven’t yet had any ignorant comments like the one responded to in Chris Anderson’s (SimpleGeek) wife’s post, which coincidentally I saw just recently, and which is worth reading. But I’m sure those will come. It is, after all, the Internet, and where would that be today without anonymous and ignorant comments?
First of all, why would we want to adopt at all? Isn’t that a lot of trouble to go through when there are far simpler (and often more enjoyable) ways to bring add to one’s family? There are many reasons why people choose to adopt, and Michelle and I are not so different from most in this regard. While our daughter Ilyana is biological and we are not as far as we know unable to conceive more children, we have found it necessary to seek fertility treatments. Fertility problems probably rank highest among reasons why most people choose to adopt, and they play a part in our decision process as well. We also both have family who were adopted, and have always thought that that would be a good thing to do some day. Adoption is a great way to grow a family, plain and simple.
Ok, so why Russia of all places? I mean, if you’re going to adopt, there are plenty of options. To quote the twit from Megan’s post: “Do you think there aren't kids for adoption in the USA? But if you want all the requirements that the celebs want, the only option is to go overseas and pay the price. This is no different that getting a mail order bride or a mail order groom.” I’m sure most people recognize that this particular comment was made by an idiot, but that doesnt’ mean there aren’t intelligent people who wonder the same thing: why not adopt from your own country?
I’m too pedantic not to point out the fallacy of this question by extending it logically. Why not adopt from your own state? Why not adopt from your own city? Why not adopt from your own house? I mean, why stop at the country — if it means more somehow to adopt from a geographically limited location, why not adopt from within 1 meter of yourself? Silliness. Since there’s little reason to limit one’s choice of child to what happens to be within earshot (or any other arbitrary distance measure), why limit oneself geographically? Why stay in the same country, continent, or hemisphere? In the end, we limited our selection to human children residing on Earth, which seemed to match our parental abilities nicely.
Logical games aside, there are serious issues with domestic adoption in the United States. It is a long and scary process. The parents who are giving up the children wield a great deal of control over the outcome of the process, far beyond the point at which the adoption takes place. Many adoptions are “open” which means that the birth parents remain involved in the life of the child. It is not unheard of for birth parents to change their minds and courts have generally sided with these parents and returned children to them even after they have spent 5, 10, or more years living with their families. We did not want to live under the spectre of a phone call or telegram coming one day that would result in our child being taken from us. Domestic adoption usually takes a long time, and not just in terms of paperwork and such, but in terms of the age of the child at the time of adoption. It is well known (to those who have educated themselves on the topic) that the older the child at the time of adoption, the more difficult the process of attachment can be. Attachment and bonding are extremely important and one of the best things that can be done to improve it is to adopt the child at as young an age as possible.
So, domestic adoption isn’t ideal, but there are plenty of international options (read: countries) from which to choose. Why not adopt from [insert favorite country here]? We chose to adopt from Russia for several reasons. We found an agency we really love, whose values and priorities were in line with ours (chief among these being the well being of the child). I also have a connection with Russia through my heritage, as one of my grandparents was first generation from Russia. One of my cousins was adopted from Russia about 5 years ago, and we learned a lot about the process from her parents’ experience. We also wanted our child to have the chance to fit in, and not to have to listen to every adult we meet say (because the child doesn’t look just like us) “Oh, is he adopted?”. We aren’t keeping it a secret that he’s adopted, but we don’t want it to define his existence as he grows up, either. So, Russia offered us the ability to adopt a child who could easily blend into our family, something we feel will make it easier for him to cope with his origins.
Adoption is not easy for the parents or for the children, and I don’t just mean the part of it that we’ve already accomplished. I mean for the rest of the child’s life. At the end of the day, we found our son, Nikita. We were sure we wanted him to be a part of our family from the moment we saw him. He happened to be in Russia, so that is where we went*. If he’d been anywhere else, we would have gone there to get him. Now he is finally home with his parents and his big sister, and he’s adjusting very well, and we’re looking forward to every day with him as a part of the Smith family.
*Admittedly, the odds of his being in Russia were a bit stacked given that that is where we were looking, but the story sounds better without muddying it with such details.