Many hands make light work

handsThis past weekend we had the privilege of attending a baby-shower for a place of Safety. Incidently, this particular place of safety looked after our little one before he came home to us. Such a wonderful idea, getting a bunch of people together, most of whom would never be at a place to hear about the victories and losses experienced at a home like this.

Some stories gave you such hope and others reached deep within and had people questioning how others could be so cruel to those so small. Stories of sheer determination being found in the most unlikely places arose, from Corporate grinders turning their lives around to babies who in spite of the outside world’s desire to abort them, refused to give up, valiantly fought the odds, defeated cruel intentions and made their way into the hearts and lives of forever families.

But, and there always seems to be a “but”, what will result from an encounter like this? Even though many sat, listening intently, sharing a moment of vulnerability and agreeing with the mission, will anyone be moved from being a fan of the idea to becoming a champion of the cause?

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Selective Indifference – Lions, Rhinos and rainbow flags

Negligence-Indifference (1)I believe we have an obligation to protect life, I believe we have a responsibility to speak for those without a voice and I also believe we don’t have a right to unjustly discriminate. But lately, in spite of these beliefs, I have had a hard time coming to terms with the way we take such vocal positions when Lions are killed or people are prevented from marrying the person of their choice but say nothing when comparatively greater evils exercise their existence.

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Our silence, an adoption killer.

Taize-SilenceA man walked along a quiet beach, every so often picking up the starfish that had found themselves stranded outside the reach of the water. He’d throw them back into the waves and carry on with his journey, repeating the rescue whenever he came across another victim. A while into his journey he was met by a stranger who questioned him about why he kept repeating this hopeless mission. The stranger explained that there were so many starfish on this beach and on every beach for that matter. He questioned what the man was trying to achieve if his actions made no difference to the greater problem. The man smiled, bent down, picked up another helpless star and threw it into the surf. With a smile he answered the stranger saying “It makes a difference to this one.”

I sometimes feel the orphan crisis is like this. Not only are their beaches filled with starfish but there are also people who come along and question why they should be thrown back. Race, culture, age, disability, finances, bureaucracy, bonding, abuse, family and the list of reasons to let those little stars lay on the beach continues to grow.

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The Adoption Solution

a325I remember sitting in my first adoption training session at a local church, staring at a board, engaging with the questions around why adoption rates in South Arica are so low. I was faced with a question around the screening behind adoption and whether our checks and balances are too strict.

I remember clearly, declaring with absolute certainty that they were, only to be comprehensively rebuffed by the lady leading the course that the processes followed in screening parents were not to blame. More than this they were necessary, practical and perhaps slightly too lenient.

We have come a fair way since that first “knowledgable” outburst of mine, but the question still remains, what is the solution?

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3 reasons why Adoptive parents aren’t special

9029740_s1 (1)Sitting with my beautiful wife last night (any excuse to boast) she was sharing about how she feels when people speak about those who adopt as a separate group of people. The words “special” “different” and “called” came up and while these are glowing reflections on what we and many people do, and don’t get me wrong, praise is always accepted and appreciated, there is a subtle danger in people accepting and giving these specific praises too easily.

Imagine a couple, feeling called by God to open up their hearts to the lost, to the ones forgotten, opening up their home and their family to accept those who have nobody to offer them a hope and a love that will be forever. This couple, when described like this, can be made to look a little more special than they really are. Truth be told, this couple doesn’t glow in the dark, doesn’t walk on water, they don’t control the winds by the mere wave of their hands and no they don’t poo gold bars or sweat diamonds. They are you and I!

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The Real Cost of Adoption – speed bumps vs Stumbling blocks

speed-bump-appendicitisIt seems adoption and the challenges contained in the processes have been in the spot light lately. Several articles, opinion pieces and radio shows have highlighted the challenges currently faced. The latest such article entitled Babies “not for sale” who will love these innocents? inspired me to throw my proverbial weight into the mix.

The article, for me ,hits the nail squarely on the head. It brings home the message that we need to protect children, we need to establish processes and practices that have at their core a desire to place a child into a forever family as quickly as possible, while not forsaking the need to make sure that the child’s past, current and long-term needs are taken into account. Picking a family for a child cannot receive the same scrutiny as what colour paint should be used to brighten up the north facing lounge wall, but it also cannot receive scrutiny that is artificially prolonged or justified because of a governments inefficiencies and lack of focus. To throw a dart into a board covered with adoptees as a process of picking a new family can be just as dangerous as an official expressing some god complex in his uninformed-opinionated-thought process when deciding if an adoption should be finalised or not. The whole process has actually very little to do with us, our ego’s, flippant comments or second-hand-I-know-someone-who-told-me-something-theories. IT IS ABOUT A CHILD WHO NEEDS A MOMMY AND A DADDY!

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Adoption Blues – Why’d they do that?

crying-eyeEvery now and then I come across something that makes me wish I had a time machine. That time machine would help me travel back in time to those moments we all wish we could forget, the moments where life hands us a massive portion of NO-YOU-DON’T KNOW-EVERYTHING-PIE.

I typically have those moments in the context of parenting. Thankfully, because life is the best teacher and kids tend to leak grace in bucket loads, parents tend to navigate through the ebbs and flows of parenting, hopefully without permanent damage to ourselves or our kids. nevertheless, there are moments I’d wish I knew then what I know now. Such a moment occurred when I read an article on adopting older children by Candace Wheeler.

At the risk of sounding unoriginal, I think it would be so helpful for adoptive parents or would be adoptive parents to read, remember and absorb the following answers to behaviours we have all experienced at some time or another. In fact, any parent for that matter could benefit, because adoptive kid’s challenges aren’t alien to those of natural-born kids, after all, they’re still children, just maybe in need of a little more tenderness. The essence comes from the article, I’ve just added some flavouring.

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It’s NOT your Culture – An open letter to those who want to protect heritage at the expense of the children for whom that heritage exists

protectcultureWOW, that’s a headline! It’s been quite a week, possibly one of the most emotionally challenging to date and I suppose the straw that broke the camels back and inspired my writing this open letter to all those custodians of heritage who seek to protect their culture by enforcing it on would be adoptive families.

 

 

 

Dear ______,

On the surface you have chosen a noble cause. The idea of upholding all that is sacred, all the traditions and beliefs that have steered one’s family or group towards who they are today. Yourself and other custodians of culture and heritage will, I’m sure, be acting with the best of intentions when seeking to enforce that those beliefs continue down the blood line from generation to generation. I even agree with the idea of protecting the essence of who you are and who came before you for the benefit of those who will come after you. Especially in such a diverse country such as South Africa, so well done!

I hope you understand my heart in this and not simply shut yourself off to the idea that perhaps we need a rethink of our approach to culture/heritage when applying it strictly to Adoptive parents and families.

I have 2 son’s, one store-bought, one homegrown, one chocolate and the other vanilla, they are my inspiration! They are equally beautiful and fierce, solid and all over the place, funny and serious. The common bond they share was not formed at a cellular level, it was not forged out of DNA or blood. Their bond goes deeper and extends further than mere genes. They are eternally bonded as brothers, spiritually united in the Body of Christ and both are equally, in all aspects, living as my sons.

The one came into our home and our hearts through birth, the other through adoption. That last word is where my belief in upholding culture/heritage becomes a little challenged. You see, my youngest son may be a little browner than his brother, but because he has been adopted into our hearts and our home, his past, present and future has been re-grafted into my culture and heritage. He is a little black boy, full of wonder and awe, bubbling with energy and purpose, he carries the spiritual lineage of God and me.

Let me be honest, I am in complete disagreement that I should uphold the culture of his bloodline. Do I dislike it, do I disagree with it, honestly, I don’t know enough about his bloodline to hold any firm position. I do believe that in an attempt to pass something from his past onto him, you may water down the completeness and eternal nature of his adoption. You see, adoption is so powerful that it wipes the past away and creates a new past. This new past finds its routes in the culture and heritage of the family into whom he/she has been adopted.

I know in South Africa we want to uphold all that has passed and more than that celebrate the variety and richness of the different cultures but frankly when you take a little black boy, place him into a non-black family and expect that they teach, protect and perhaps instill their new child’s previous culture into him, as well as have him find his place in this new world, all on account of the colour of his skin, that seems a little unfair.

Black children are not born with the culture/heritage of their past tribal generations any more than white children are born with a racist gene. A child is a child, he/she is raised and groomed to take on the customs/beliefs or culture of the family/group within which he/she exists. Does that mean should my son want to explore the rich culture and heritage of the bloodline from which he comes, I will dig my heals in a declare his culture is mine and he should look no further? Absolutely not. In fact, if that day comes, I’ll be right their learning and experiencing with him. But please don’t enforce a belief or a label on him based on the colour of his skin, I’m pretty sure that has been tried before and with little success.

My son is my son, he is mine, he’s not Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa, Ndebele, Shangaan or Venda, he happens to have brown skin, but that’s all, underneath he’s just like his brother, except for the hair (I’ll give you that one, they are slightly different.)

Please, let’s embrace the completeness of adoption. The barriers to families welcoming in a son or daughter whose icing is different from their own are numerous without us lopping on another requirement. let’s embrace them as children, our children. Lets treat them as completely ours without conditions that their homegrown siblings need not worry about.

Sincerely

A loving Father of 2 boys, and God willing, soon, a little girl. Oh, and she’ll be my little girl, my angel. No other labels need apply.

Tell me what you think

Adoption – Round 2…5 things I never knew the first time round

round2-1140x700So here we go, first adoption meeting with the social worker for our second store-bought child, happens this week. Home grown 1 and store-bought 1 are excited, we are excited, the family is excited, or at least they are until they realise Christmas just got a little more expensive.

I remember a couple of years ago being in this exact same space, blissfully unaware of the decision we were about to make. Full of love, expectancy and hope, we began a journey that rocked the entire foundation of our family, our marriage and ourselves. We would never be the same again. Those people, those doe eyed parents are gone. Naiveté has left us, blissful ignorance has waved us good-bye and what is left, at least in our estimation, is a slightly greyer, lightly bashed about, but more realistic set of parents. Sound a little negative, sure you want to give it another go?

In spite of the tears, the hair pulling, the total confusion and at times the sense of complete aloneness, I cannot imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t gladly open my heart and my home to welcome another beautiful child to become one with us. Our experience with our second born son, has so solidified in our hearts a greater level of love, that we will never be the same.

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