Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"It is not easy to care about the pregnant teen or the struggling mom"


"...the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world."

~Dr. Paul Farmer

(Mountains beyond Mountains written by Tracy Kidder)

* * *

Adoption is not for everyone. Nor is it the answer to the world’s orphan crisis. In the best of circumstances, adoption creates a loving family for a child who has been orphaned. But it does not address the root causes of why a child has been abandoned or orphaned to begin with. It is a band-aid on much larger social problems that all of us should want to see eliminated – child abandonment, poverty, lack of resources, drug abuse, and social stigma. It is estimated that 99% of the world’s orphans will not be adopted. Adoption is an answer for some orphaned children . . . but not for most of them.

There are two sides to the orphan crisis: finding families for children without, and preserving families that are intact. Prevention is the side that is not addressed by adoption. If we say we care about adoption, then we must care about the circumstances that lead children to be orphaned. If we care about adoption, then we must care about seeing less children enter orphanages to begin with.

It is not easy to care about the pregnant teen or the struggling mom. But it might be the starting place in this whole scenario.

(And if we care about orphans, then we must care about the children in foster care in our own country.)

* * *

Minus the quote from Dr. Paul Farmer, the above is an excerpt from a post, "Adoption Discourse: A Little More Talk, A Lot More Action," at the adoption site, Grown in My Heart.

I wanted to share the post, because the author, an adoptive mom, actually addresses the reality that adoption "does not address the root causes of why a child has been abandoned or orphaned to begin with." I was refreshed to encounter such insights being expressed. Furthermore, the author goes on to offer very practical ways of addressing the root causes both locally and internationally:

So, I’m gathering a list – a list of things that assist children at risk. The first is a list of things you can do locally. Then, I’ll give some resources to organizations that are on the ground in impoverished nations, that you might think about supporting. These are the organizations that are helping to sustain families financially, so they don’t have to face the threat of abandoning a child due to poverty. THIS is where our attention should be.

Finally. Progress is being made--people who are willing not only to acknowledge the realities surrounding WHY adoption happens in the first place, but people who are also willing to promote doing something about it. Glory.

* * *

I'd also like to address, however, the statement that

"It is not easy to care about the pregnant teen or the struggling mom. But it might be the starting place in this whole scenario."

This statement, I believe, is quite revealing and honestly, to me, alludes to one of the root causes not only when facing the reasons behind adoption but the reasons for so much of the injustice and inequity that trouble our world.

In the words of Dr. Paul Farmer, as quoted above, who has been working in Haiti for most of his life (for decades--long before the earthquake hit):

"...the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world."

To me the above statement captures WHY it's so hard for some people to care about the moms facing the extreme difficulties and circumstances that may prompt them to relinquish their children. Whether it's a single mom facing intense poverty or a young teen lacking resources or a widow left alone or a woman struggling in an abusive relationship--the root reason for why it's easy for people to dismiss these moms is what Dr. Farmer addresses in his statement--that some lives matter less than others.

Maybe you don't view it that way, but what other reason or explanation is there for why folks are so willing, even eager, to help the children involved, yet so hesitant, even averse, to helping the mothers and families of these children? The mothers' lives matter less to them (for whatever host of reasons they use to rationalize and justify their discriminations--the mom is irresponsible, she shouldn't have gotten pregnant in the first place, she's uneducated, she doesn't have what it takes, she's immature, her actions prove she doesn't deserve to parent, and so forth), while the lives of the children matter more.

And yes, you're right, it is complicated--exactly. It's "easy" to help a child--they're so "helpless" and "innocent." But it's so much more difficult to help an adult--we're willful and obstinate and loaded with all kinds of flaws and emotional baggage.

So, it's easy for people to dismiss the lives of the moms being affected while feeling saintly for caring about the lives of the children. But if folks really cared about the children involved, they'd care about their moms, too. And if people were a little less inclined to think so highly of themselves yet so disparagingly of others, then true change, true reform, and true help could happen not only in the world of adoption, but in the world as a whole.

When we stop assigning a hierarchy of value to individual lives based on such finite and temporal terms like money and wealth and education, and begin acknowledging the inherent value of every human being, not for what they don't have or can't do but for what they do have and can do--particularly when given the opportunity and support they need--it is then that we will truly be on the road to progress.


6 comments:

Mei said...

Very well said Melissa:

"When we stop assigning a hierarchy of value to individual lives based on such finite and temporal terms like money and wealth and education, and begin acknowledging the inherent value of every human being, not for what they don't have or can't do but for what they do have and can do--particularly when given the opportunity and support they need--it is then that we will truly be on the road to progress."

Lynn said...

Awesome post! I had to put it up on my FB page.

HollyMarie said...

Mountains beyond Mountains; excellent book! I knew I had read those words before from Kristin; I think she had posted them (at least partially) in her own blog a while ago... Or maybe I have read them somewhere else. There are actually quite a few of us adoptive moms who want to see change in this way and are doing something about it. No where near the number who "don't get it", but I think we are growing.

Amanda said...

Excellent post.

It's not hard to care about the pregnant teen or struggling mom either....when we stop and think about our own selves and our own children and how being in their shoes would make us feel. Being an adoptee helps me care; being a woman and mother helps me care more.

Soo said...

I strongly agree with what you have written. I definitely think the insensitivity towards pregnant teens and struggling moms stems largely from a class issue. Unfortunately these individuals can be the most economically disadvantaged. When many end up turning to welfare for support, I think much of society sees them as unimportant and lazy. It scary and frustrating how little people care for others sometimes.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

I am way behind on my blog reading and just now seeing this. Thanks for your words about that post.

When I wrote that it's harder to care for the struggling teen mom, I was quoting my friend Tara, who was a teen mom herself, and now works with teen moms in Haiti. She has definitely experienced the stigma and has a much harder time with fundraising now that they are a "teen mom home" instead of an orphanage.

I think it extends way beyond adoption. Think of World Vision and Compassion - two of the biggest aid organizations I know. They sponsor kids, but you never see a sponsorship for young moms. In fact, given the early pregnancy rates in most developing countries you would think that many of their sponsored kids WOULD be moms, but I never see that advertised, either.

All that to say, I agree that the general reluctance to help pregnant moms stems from some belief that they are somehow less innocent and therefore less worthy.