Working through the process of adoption brings you to realize some misconceptions that other people hold. The craziest part is when you find yourself up against a misconception you used to hold yourself.
Someone who shall go unnamed told me to "Adopt American." When I first read these brief and illuminating words I was a bit irritated. As if a kid should come with one of those little flag stickers on it, showing how I support American industry and genetic productivity or something. Support the economy, buy kids local. grrrr...
Then I remembered myself, several years back. I remember when Angelina Jolie made her first big splash in the news for her international adoption of whichever of her 25 kids came first. (I love that family, but I can't keep up. Sorry, no offense meant) It seemed like overnight every famous person was running off to identify some poor little orphan in a third world country and take it home to love and care for and maybe carry in a cute little Gucci bag, a la Paris Hilton. I remember watching it all unfold and saying "Why don't they adopt one of the perfectly good American kids in need? How about helping out at home before running off to some other country?"
At the time, I saw the whole thing as self serving. It was a publicity stunt, a ploy. Adopting a kid in the U.S. wasn't dramatic enough. There had to be press clippings of the famous person of the moment looking saintly in some hovel. It wasn't high profile enough to get a kid close to home, was my thought. I looked down on them. I knew I was interested in adopting some day, and I smugly told myself that when it was time for me to adopt I'd adopt from home because we should help kids close to home.
You know how to make God laugh, right? Tell Him your plans.
Now, years later and an international adoption underway, I realize what I didn't realize back then. Kids are not just interchangeable parts that you swap out from one place to another. It's not a matter of "Remove child A from foster home B and insert into family C." This is not Ikea furniture, it's a family. These children don't just require a home, they require the right home. The home that is the perfect fit for them. The place where they mesh, where they belong. A home where the details have been thought out and those details match what that child needs.
We have a tendency to take a "beggars can't be choosers" approach to orphan care. The kid needs a home, give them a home. Don't be picky, anything is better than what they have now. But that's a terrible way to approach the foundation for this child's entire life. You wouldn't want someone to tell you that about marriage, would you? "He's nice enough, and he wants to marry you, so just say yes. Don't be picky!" You or I would be screaming "No! That's not enough! I don't want to settle! I want to be loved, to be happy, to feel fulfilled and have my deepest needs met. Not just sold off to whoever is available." Yet we seem to say that to these kids and to the parents who are willing to adopt them. Just take what you can get.
I realize now that the kids available for adoption in the U.S. just don't fit with my family at this time. Maybe in the future we'll decide to do this again, and maybe then we'll decide that it's time to adopt "at home." But at this juncture, everything in our lives and in our hearts is telling us that the perfect child for us is in Bulgaria. And that there is a child in Bulgaria whose perfect home is here, with us. That's way more important than having a kid with an "I Buy American!" sticker on her chest.
Perhaps the crisis of orphan care is a global matter, and we should be looking at the whole Earth as our country. Perhaps we should look at adoption as a chance to make our family something more vibrant and dynamic than what biology could have provided.
I know one thing for sure. As soon as her little foot touches U.S. soil, my new daughter will be an American. So there.