If you’re sharp, you’ll have realised by now that we said yes to adoption. As with any decision, once it is made you actually have to start doing something about it. It was no good sitting on the couch, waiting for the stork to bring us a child. It was time to act.
The first thing we did was talk it through with Marcus and Adele – our spiritual mom and dad. It was during this meeting that Marcus told us that he remembered that we expressed the desire to adopt. That was way back in 2004 when we went through pre-marital counseling with them. It came as a great confirmation to us that we had heard God’s call to pursue this.
Having opened the door, we realised we were “adoption-ignorant” and so the next few months were months of learning. We started doing some research, getting perspective and speaking to people who had been through the process. We also told our family and friends about our plans. The response was mostly positive but there were some difficult, negative responses. Some well-meaning people asked whether we didn’t need to exercise our faith more, while others thought we had not waited long enough to fall pregnant. There was an awkward and annoying conversation with a GP who warned me that certain ethnic groups had “genetic” propensities to turn out a certain way. He wasn’t talking about health issues, he was talking about behavioural issues – the “nature versus nurture” argument. While I rejected his opinion out-of-hand, it did make me reevaluate my willingness to adopt across culture.
So what was I feeling regarding cross-cultural adoption? Well, the simple answer is that I had no problem with it at all. I was a young boy during the later years of apartheid and my parents were a bit naughty at the time. In those days, my mom was a youth pastor and we would often have people of colour staying in our homes, sleeping in our beds while we slept on the floor, eating our food – with us at the table. I was not brought up with segregation, in spite of the political climate. My sisters and I were shown an example of equality where no one person was better or worse than another person because of their race or standing.
I think when we human beings dig deep enough we will all find little prejudices that have a bearing on our perspectives, decisions and actions. Our bias may not be ethnic, as such, but perhaps social (certain areas of Johannesburg, for example, are seen as lower class than others). Perhaps our prejudice is socio-economic (the rich don’t want to associate with the poor). We even alienate people because of small, inconsequential things like musical preference.
I took the question of cross-cultural adoption very seriously. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to project my little prejudices onto a child of a different race or background. This question, along with others, made me realise that adoption comes with a whole raft of choices. We hear many stories of surprise pregnancies and “accidents” but with biological children, a husband and wife will generally decide on the right time to start trying for children. However, once a couple has conceived they have to take what they get. They can’t choose gender. They can’t choose eye or hair colour. They can’t even choose for their child to be healthy.
With adoption there are all kinds of choices. Did we want a baby, a toddler or an older child? Did we want a boy or a girl? Did we want to take a black, mixed-race, white, asian or other child? Then there were the complicated questions regarding the possible family status of a child. A child may have lost both parents, it may have been abandoned, it may have been removed from an abusive family. The status of a child could mean they are not up for adoption at all. In which case, would we be prepared to foster? Fostering is having legal guardianship but you are not legally the parent – the state basically asks you to care for a child or children until the case is settled. If we fostered, would we be prepared for the child to be taken away if the court deemed it necessary?
When you learn something about the status of a family or child, the process can be really heart-breaking. There are so many devastating stories of abuse, rape, neglect and abandonment. This has always been a point of frustration for us. A question we have often asked God is; how could those evil people be blessed with a child? We are good people with the means to love and provide for a child, why can’t we have one? We have our ways of dealing with that, but what would you do? How would you respond to that?
It is not easy to ignore how prejudice and preference confront you when look into adoption. At the very least you are forced to consider where your heart stands when it comes to race, for example. If you’re honest and open, this could be a very healthy process for you. God doesn’t want any partiality in our lives, scripture tells us this and Jesus himself models it often. Whether you’re reading this because you may actually consider adopting or you’re reading purely out of interest, I implore you to take this opportunity to reflect. If the questions and choices above have challenged you, then respond.