01 Feb 2003 What About Adoption? by Kimberley Jane Wilson
A New Visions Commentary paper published February 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web http://www.nationalcenter.org. Reprints permitted provided source is credited.
I figure most people don’t give adoption much thought. They probably don’t think it’s an option they need to consider.
I would have agreed a few years ago, but things have happened since then that have changed my mind.
When we married in 1988, my husband and I assumed we’d have children right away. He thought two would be nice, while I secretly preferred something along the lines of six or more. When three years passed with no pregnancy, I wasn’t alarmed. It was like hearing a far-away siren and wondering where the fire was. After our fifth wedding anniversary, I realized something was wrong. That siren was ringing for me.
I saw a doctor, and then another. I saw a fertility specialist. I read books and underwent increasingly uncomfortable tests. I finally underwent painful procedures and took expensive medications and lived my life by charts my doctor set up.
To supplement Western medicine, I also consulted naturopathic doctors and even went to Chinatown to visit an elderly Chinese herbalist. He gave me a bottle of slimy, foul-smelling black pills. A few years earlier, I would’ve laughed and walked out. After seven years of infertility, I bought them and took four a day. With this full-scale bombardment of my reluctant reproductive system, I got pregnant. Four times, actually. Each pregnancy ended in miscarriage before I even realized I was pregnant.
Infertility is like being force-fed a bellyful of bitter water every day of your life. I’ve felt every emotion from shame to fear to rage so boiling hot it frightened me. It’s impossible to live very long that way. Eventually, my husband convinced me there might be another way: adoption.
We looked into adoption very cautiously. At seminars and adoption fairs, we noticed we were almost always the only black people. Although it often seemed like it, we weren’t the only black couple in America fighting infertility. The places we researched dealt primarily in placing black and mixed-raced children. What was going on?
Black culture has always embraced informal family adoption. When young Susie got pregnant out of wedlock, it was common for Grandma or Aunt Lucy to step in and raise the child. If Cousin Della got sick or died, leaving behind young children, you could be sure some relative would take them home. Today, many black women are raising grandchildren because the AIDS epidemic or the scourge of drug abuse has destroyed their sons or daughters.
For many, I think there is concern about the hassle involved with formal adoption. As crass as it sounds, you are likely to need ready cash and lots of it. Even state-run agencies may cost several thousand dollars. However, families earning under $190,000 a year can receive federal tax credits of up to $10,000 for adopting, and many states offer additional tax benefits. Active-duty military personnel are re-inbursed tax-free for up to $2,000 per adopted child. Furthermore, adoption fees are sometimes reduced or eliminated in hard-to-adopt categories such as non-white children, children with special needs and non-infants.
During what’s called a “home study,” your life will be examined by a disinterested person looking for trouble. You need personal references, your credit may be examined and – if you’re married – the stability of your marriage will be probed for weakness.
Many people find this discovery process to be distasteful, but I really can’t object to it. Children awaiting adoption are neither pets nor toys. Every effort must be made to ensure they don’t end up in bad homes. The deaths of little Candace Moody and Lisa Steinberg are two examples of what horrors can occur when a helpless child is entrusted to an unstable person.
The North American Council on Adoptable Children reports there are approximately 53,000 black kids now awaiting adoption. Most will spend five or more years in foster care. The ones who don’t find homes will be set adrift once they reach the age of 18.
That’s not good enough.
At those adoption seminars, I met white couples who to adopt black children. But they are just a drop in an ocean of need. Trans-racial adoption, as controversial as it is, accounts for less than ten percent of adoptions nationwide. Adopting a child takes more than love. If you have the patience to endure the process, room in your heart and home and, yes, the willingness to spend the money – consider adopting.
Black parents are desperately needed. The kids can’t wait any longer.