15. Choosing Change in Times of Change
Maybe this pandemic can inspire positive change and help more kids get adopted in the future.
Sometimes the world seems to turn upside down.
In the world of adoption, it happened gradually, a steady process of requirements being added. The focus drifted from how can we help you adopt a child? to are you fit to parent an adopted child? As requirements and fees were added, the number of adoptions decreased, especially international adoptions. Per year, Americans adopted about 20,000 kids internationally twenty years ago and only 4,000 per year recently.
Now, undoubtedly, the pandemic has turned our world upside down, and the future remains uncertain.
What should we do in times of change and uncertainty?
With my relatives in Shillong
My husband belongs to a people of northeast India, the Khasis, and I believe their example offers some essential wisdom.
The Khasis are quite unique in India because they practice a matrilineal tradition for family names and property along with a patriarchal system for decision-making. How did this uniquely egalitarian way of life begin?
They say that long ago, there was a great war. The war was so dangerous that most of the men had to leave for the fight, and the people met to decide how to preserve their tribe during this difficulty. Since the women were remaining, they chose to pass on inherited property to the youngest daughter of each family, and to pass the last names through the mother’s side.
These traditions are still in practice today, and the women of Shillong have been proud of their strong roles in society for hundreds of years, long before women in other parts of India and in Western society gained many essential rights.
The Khasis changed because they were confronted by a great event and an uncertain future.
My hope is that the adoption process can also change at this time. In the past, conventions and organizations added fees and requirements in the certainty that it was best for the children and that there would always be people who would do anything and pay any price in order to adopt. Sadly, even that idea was incorrect, as is shown by the huge decline in international adoptions.
Now economists have predicted another great depression. How many will choose to pay over $40,000, sacrifice over six months of time and energy, and undergo a rigorous scrutiny by their peers in order to adopt in 2020, 2021, or even 2022? Millions of children around the world have no families right now. Two to three years means hundreds of thousands of kids … aging. And we do know that the older a child becomes, the less likely that kid will ever be adopted.
Now is the time for change.
Like the Khasis, we need to admit this huge uncertainty we face and take positive action for the orphans of our world. These are some necessary steps:
1. Prioritize kids living with families, not institutions. This is especially important now as we worry about the next pandemic. Everyone is safer in a smaller household. Large groups of children with compromised immune systems should not be living together in institutions.
2. Cut the paperwork in half. A three-fourth month process with medical check-ups and background checks, and a few social worker visits is more than enough. Anyone who has been through the process will attest to the redundancy of most paperwork. Currently, most people need five to eight months to finish the home study and even more time to complete the dossier phase.
3. Reduce the fees to make them plausible during our uncertain times. $40,000 to adopt a child is excessive, especially for children with special needs. One argument is that the fees protect children from cruel people who would use them, and yet truly cruel people will prey on the more vulnerable and undocumented, the millions of street children in our world. It is sad, but true. Also, adoptive parents have to be prepared for unexpected medical issues which can increase the costs of adoption significantly. Having to pay exorbitant fees before even being matched with a child causes the adoption numbers to stay low, a terrible shame.
If we take these measures, who knows? Maybe two hundred years from now, there will be greater harmony in our world as far fewer children grow up without parents, a circumstance that causes many to suffer mentally and economically. Maybe people will look back at this time and see that we chose to create change which had powerful and lasting effects. We can read about the Khasis and imagine a day when people simply gathered and said, This is a tough time. How do we preserve our people? And perhaps someday our great, great grandchildren will read about this pandemic and marvel at the decisions that we chose to make.
Erica Rosi Tham
Read our adoption story from the beginning. You can follow the numbers in this blog to read our story in order.