I was deep down a YouTube rabbit hole, watching a series of videos by a fascinating, opinionated, extremely conservative woman who has given birth to 10 children. She offered a variety of helpful and entertaining thoughts about the logistics of it all – the importance of routine and structure, balancing nutrition with food that’s fun, helping siblings get along – and then every so often, she’d veer off on some crazy tangent, like how she doesn’t let her toddler daughters wear snow suits, because snow suits have pants and are therefore unbiblical. I laughed out loud. I was riveted.
In one video someone asked, “Would you and your husband ever consider adoption?” I was pretty sure I knew the answer. The defining statement of her life is CHILDREN ARE A BLESSING FROM THE LORD, and the New Testament directs Jesus’ people specifically to care for orphans. I was sure she’d respond in the affirmative.
Wow, was I wrong! She looked right into the camera, eyes hardened, and declared, “No. I don’t think we’d ever adopt. If a family member needed us to take a child for a time, then maybe we might help. But we would never adopt a child that was not related to us, because that’s just stealing…” She went on to say that infant adoption is essentially buying children, and that adopting through Child Protective Services is the absolute worst, because that means the government has taken a child away from their parents and relocated them according to it’s own standards, which is appalling.
I was shocked, and offended. But then I thought about it, and wondered, “What if she’s right?”
For the first time I faced this thorny question: would the Cherubs be better off if DCF had never removed them in the first place? Children are resilient, after all – memoirs like Educated and The Glass Castle show us that. And it their own ways, the Cherubs had developed a series of work-arounds to more or less survive. It wasn’t a great survival. Things were a bit feral, from what I understand. But kids have made it through worse. It wouldn’t have been good, but it would have been whatever it was, and they would have become different people, with different relationships and world views than they’re becoming now.
I ran this idea by #2 Cherub – the one who likes me the least and is convinced that she could run things far better than us if we’d just let her – and she said, “Yeah, I can understand how people could see it like that…”
Gah – what do you do with that?
You come back to the facts.
It’s debatable whether (and under what circumstances) the state should be allowed to remove children from their parents. I have all kinds of mixed opinions on that. But by the time we came into the picture, hoping to adopt? That was not the issue at hand. You don’t just go to DCF, point to a kid you think you could do a better job of parenting, and have the state go get them. You spend months applying for the chance to step in as emergency backup for a child who has already been put in a situation where they need new, functional parents, based on a long series of choices and decisions that you are not privy to and will probably never understand.
This is not a romantic world you’re entering. This is disaster clean-up.
Once kids are in foster care, something needs to happen. Foster care is highly unstable (and often devastating, although that was not the case with our kids), and children need a permanent home and long-term committed relationships. If the biological parents can’t, for whatever reason, do the job, someone needs to.
(Things get way murkier when you’re talking about infant adoption, and even more so when things are done internationally. I know almost nothing about either of those, but for a in-depth look at ethical international adoption, check out The Archibald Project. They’re fantastic.)
So no, I don’t think we stole the Cherubs. I’m the backup Mom, and Steve is the magical unicorn Dad (more on that in a future post) in a really difficult situation. Understanding our role, challenging as it’s been, helps us navigate the ups and downs that come with this usual family constellation and help the Cherubs grow and thrive.