Monday, July 28, 2014

Adoption and Fundraising: When Money to Breaks Down Systemic Barriers for Families

Aselefech runs for family preservation.
There are a number of factors behind why I was placed for adoption.  Economics by far is one of the most pervasive.  My narrative is one among countless that attest to the way in which economics constricts the choices families and parents have--to keep their children, to not experience the removal of their children, to not become pregnant if they do not wish to be.

I have been outspoken for the past five years against adoption fundraisers.  I have been asked countless times over the years to donate my written word or official endorsement to adoption fundraisers, and each time I have declined.  According to my mother's narrative, at the time she stepped off of the plane in her sister's home state where she would birth me, she owned just one change of clothes. It seems irreverent for the wealthy to exchange money for inspirational adoption t-shirts among themselves, too expensive for my own mother to have worn herself, to raise money to adopt her baby.

Hierarchies of power and privilege push impoverished children into orphanages and care and trap them there with their families on the outside looking in, the empty arms of biological families aching.  One adoption fee could vaccinate tens of thousands of children or fund an entire medical center for a village.  The average cost to adopt a newborn from a struggling parent could pay the TANF allowance of a family of four for three years.

Yet we see fit to designate tens of thousands of dollars as a barrier to a home for a child-- barriers to both homes of origin and adoptive ones.  Money becomes a barrier to children returning to their poor families.  Money becomes a barrier to children receiving adoptive families when they need them.  To raise money to maintain this as the status quo is unfathomable to me.

There are fundraisers that should be grabbing our attention and support.  Aselefech Evans will run a half-marathon in Ethiopia to promote family preservation. In her compelling piece entitled "'Orphans' and Economics," Aselefech explains,
I’m holding a fundraiser, but it’s not for adoption. It’s for family preservation in my home country of Ethiopia. I was placed for adoption not because I was an orphan, or because my parents had died, but because they were poor. 
I have told myself I was done fighting with time, I cannot reclaim the past, and I am ready to move forward. Moving forward has meant not obsessing over every specific detail of what happened and what was lost. It’s a struggle.
Aselefech discovered just how difficult it is to garner support for family preservation fundraisers.
I thought $5000 would be an easy amount to raise, and I was wrong. It’s been a struggle, and a reminder that family preservation is far less popular than adoption, at least in terms of fundraising.
While disagreeing with the adoption fundraiser trend, I haven't paid as much attention to offering alternative options.  It is one thing to say what shouldn't be done.  It is quite another to suggest what should be done.  When adoptees head good fundraising opportunities, I should be doing my part to lend support here at The Declassified Adoptee.  Letting the hustle and bustle of life and starting a new job get in the way is no excuse.

My apologies to Aselefech and the families she supports; I dropped the ball not promoting her efforts here until now.  But there are still 20 days left.  Aselefech has reached her goal, but we do not have to stop there.  The next check from The Declassified Adoptee book sales will go toward Aselefech's fundraiser.  I encourage everyone who reads here to consider donating as well.  Money should never be a barrier to a child having a family--certainly when it is their own biological family who could care for them with support.

Aselefech and I are far from the only adoptees who have found the pervasive grip of poverty in our adoption narratives.  The film Closure captured Angela's return to her foster parents' home where she lived for the first year of her life.  Tears poured down the foster mother's cheeks as she explained how she had given Angela physical therapy everyday, loved her, and wanted to adopt her.  They were suitable to care for her until Angela had an adoptive home, but were not permitted to adopt her.  They could not afford to.

I've processed my own journey vicariously in so many ways through this film.  Angela and I were born the same year, in the same city, surrendered through the same office and agency, and both fostered in the first year of our lives.  I have never met my unknown foster mother.  I only know from a medical document here and there that I used her last name the first five months of my life.  I cried when most adults held me, but not for her.  Did she stroke my plump cheeks and feel the love of a mother in her heart?  Did she want to adopt me yet I set off on a path to yet another caregiver due to finances?  I may never know.

Money should break down systemic barriers for children and families, not build barriers.