"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult." E. B. White

Monday, October 7, 2013

Adoption? Not an Option

My fiance, family, and close friends were only half joking when they asked if I was departing for Nepal alone but planning to return with an adopted child. Of course, no one actually expected that I was going to meet a child and facilitate an adoption in a matter of weeks, but it is well known by my close circle that I have always wanted to adopt.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a good, loving home. I had all the things a kid could need or want - I was well-loved and well-fed, lived in a safe house and safe neighborhood, went to good schools and was enrolled in dance and theater and other extracurricular activities. I realize that, as a child, I never had to worry about so many of the things that other children in the world struggle with every day.

As an adult, I have been incredibly aware of the fact that I did not earn my happy childhood. I didn’t deserve it any more than any other child does, nor did I pick it or have a say regarding into which life I would be born. No child has that option. And that is why I have always wanted to adopt. Because the reality is that I was very blessed, and I now have the ability to give a similar, happy childhood to a kid who, by no fault or choice of their own, is currently love-less, family-less, and possibly hopeless.

Coming to Nepal, I truly did not expect to form a strong attachment to any child. How could I possibly do that in such a short time? And even if I did particularly like a kid, I would never make a unilateral decision without Gene about which child to bring into our family before we even get married.

Adoption, while something I seriously plan to pursue in the future, was not something I was seriously considering when I came to Nepal.

Brothers Bibek and Rajip in matching shirts
And then I met Rajip and Bibek. Two little brothers who have completely stolen and melted my heart. As soon as I met them, I felt like they had been in that orphanage all these years waiting for me to find them. Please don’t misunderstand, I adore all of the kids in the orphanage and wish every one of them could find a loving home, but there is a difference between wanting the best for these kids and wanting to be the one who gives it to them.

If adopting these two boys was an option, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Sadly, its not that easy.

Most importantly, like I said, adopting a child (or two) needs to be a decision that Gene and I make together. Preferably when we are in the same country. At the same time. But I know without a doubt that he would love these boys as much as I do. I know everyone else, especially my mom and sister, would love them, too.

Secondly, these boys have become family with the other children in the home. It would be so hard for them to be separated from their “brothers and sisters,” and would be even more traumatic for the other kids who would have to struggle to understand why two other kids were chosen over them.

Finally, and obviously the obstacle that seals it, adoption is not really an option in Nepal. There are several reasons for this.

According to Anish, our program director here in Nepal, adoption is generally not permitted by the orphanages because human trafficking is such a huge problem in this country. With a government that provides no funding or care for orphans, there are few people looking out for the welfare of these children. Orphanages don’t have the resources to fully vet potential adoptive parents, and the risk of giving a child to a person who intends to traffick them is too great.

The other reason is corruption. The word “corruption” was never used, but that was clearly the point.  Adoption officials may charge an American $50,000 for a child, and use only $5,000 of that on administering the adoption. The remaining $45,000 will likely end up in someone’s pocket. These numbers are just an example, but you take my point.

I decided to check the US State Department’s website, and discovered that the US doesn’t make it much easier to adopt from Nepal. The major concern outlined by the State Department is that several children in Nepal are stolen or sold, so authenticating orphan records is nearly impossible. If a person/couple wants to adopt from Nepal, it requires a lengthy investigation into the child’s background and the whereabouts of the birth parents. The website had a lot to say about it, but the short version is essentially that potential adoptive parents should look elsewhere.

His smile is so funny - he only shows his bottom teeth
I came here knowing that this was not the right time for me to find the special kid that one will day be part of my family. I continue to know that its true, based both on reason, responsibility, and near (but not complete) impossibility. But even still, it is so sad to know that Rajip, Bibek, and all of the other kids at Sarita’s will spend their childhoods in an orphanage. No parents. no happy home. And no choice in the matter.

For the next several years, every time I think about these boys, I’ll never have the hope that they have found a family and are living the childhood that they deserve. Instead, I know that they’ll live in the same orphanage until they turn 18 (at least they’ll get an education), and then they’ll be turned out to fend for themselves.

It is sadly revealing about how little I can actually do to help. At the very least, I hope Anna and I leave these kids with a feeling that they are loved, even if we won’t be here to remind them come next week.

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