Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"It is odd to be on the other side now" (~Riverkids' Director, Dale Edmonds)

Please, please, please take the time to read this post, "Starting adoptions from the other side of the table."

It is written by Dale Edmonds at her personal blog. Dale is the director for the nonprofit organization Riverkids, which works to stop child trafficking and exploitation in Cambodia.

Her most recent blog post addresses the incredible complexities of the situations children and families face in Cambodia. And more specifically, recently, "Riverkids – the NGO I work for – is in the middle of arranging two adoptions."

Hence, Dale shares her experience thus far with the process and expresses, "It is odd to be on the other side now, to be making the decision on placing a child and figuring out how to do it. I thought it might be helpful to write up what my experience so far has been."

To open the post, Dale provides a bit of personal background along with a caveat:

Riverkids started to a large degree when my husband and I adopted four children from Cambodia, an international trans-racial adoption. Two of our kids had been trafficked specifically for adoption, and in the decade since, I’ve become incredibly cynical about the adoption industry, and to a lesser degree about adoptive parents. It’s not a triangle – it’s a black hole of money and desire coming from wealthier and socially more powerful adoptive parents distorting what adoption could be, a blessing in tragedy.

Caveat up front: I believe ethical adoption is a good alternative for some children in crisis, and I believe that most adoptions now are unethical. Ours certainly were. This is not an official Riverkids post, although we’re putting up our foster care policy once these adoptions are done, with detailed notes on the process as part of them. This is me reflecting on our work.

She then goes on to address six major points:
  1. Yes, we have no babies
  2. Abandoned is forever
  3. Finding a family
  4. Musical chairs with children
  5. They'll have a better life overseas...
  6. Process

As she concludes the blog post, I particularly appreciate her candor and humility in the following admission:

But it would have been so so easy to do that. To walk into a slum and rescue this tiny baby. She had a rash where she wasn’t being bathed enough – but her foster mother had a tiny hat for her that she put on carefully and the baby giggled when her foster mother blew kisses at her, and out of this really poor family struggling as best they could, the baby was loved, so loved.

Still, I have some empathy for people who charge in to rescue children. It’s seductively easy. Children cling to you and you can get such an emotional fix off rescuing them. They are far easier to help than angry independent adults. They are ‘clean slates’, and you can project your own ideas onto them. You have all this wealth and power comparatively, and everyone is so nice to you because you’re the kind lady or man who rescues children from horrible people.

While this empathy is not going to stop me from punching certain people in the face on behalf of my kids if I ever met them again, I can see how it starts. It starts when you think about how you feel, not the baby you’re supposed to be helping.

* * *

ADULT ADOPTEES in particular, she has specifically requested feedback and insight regarding the information she has collected for the two children's files. It seems like a very inclusive list to me. I wish I had had such information available to me from the beginning.

But I imagine that some of you, whether adoptees, adoptive parents or otherwise, may have some helpful insight to offer. If you do want to offer insight, please make sure to FIRST read Dale's ENTIRE blog post and please be CONSIDERATE. It's clear that she spent a lot of time thinking through the details (as well as obviously living through the details), which of course, as is inherent to adoption, are complex in nature.


Claudia said...

Wow, this is a hugely interesting post. Lots and lots of food for thought. Thanks so much for linking.

Von said...

Very interesting particularly as she views children as 'clean slates'

Sunday said...

Very interesting!

mrkmommy said...


she doesn't view them as "clean slates" she says others view them as such. She makes it clear that they come with personalities and feelings that PAP don't take into consideration just because they can't talk.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Melissa for linking - I would love feedback and suggestions. Von and mrkmommy - yes, I did mean the quotes to be ironic, that children, even babies are *not* clean slates. Even a newborn has those nine months, that genetic heritage that both ties them to a living family and gives them inborn personality traits that should be acknowledged. But there is a real temptation, especially with babies, to imagine that they are a 'fresh slate' and can be changed to fit their new circumstances without thought.