"Pounding the Rock" - How It Applies to International Adoption

Monday, June 24, 2013

“Pounding the rock”…. As a fairly intense basketball fan, I thought I understood this phrase. The basketball is often referred to as the “rock” and “pounding it” means focus on scoring in the paint (i.e., close to the basket).

Yesterday in the Sunday NY Times, I read an article about the Spurs and their coach, Gregg Popovich, which provided a different slant on this phrase.

As stated in the article, Popovich “tells his men to pound the rock, because even when the stone shows no sign of cracking, you never know under which blow it will finally break.”

All too often we in the international adoption arena feel like we are beating our heads against the wall. Let’s keep “pounding the rock”!

In the early 19th century, William Wilberforce “pounded the rock” for decades. Just before his death, the slave trade in England was abolished – it “finally broke”. It may take years, but I’m convinced that we’re going to see the same result in international adoption.

Words Matter (continued)

Friday, June 21, 2013

In my previous post, I asked about the use of the word “orphan” for children in foster care in the U.S. and received several thought-provoking responses.

So now let’s move outside the U.S. to developing countries, where there are roughly 20,000,000 “double orphans”, children where both parents have died. Here the debate is not the use of the word “orphan”.

The question I have is this….. Is it appropriate to use the phrase “rescue an orphan” when talking about adopting internationally?

Words Matter

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In my next few posts, I’m going to pose questions on the appropriateness of certain words or phrases. I’m not settled in my own views on these and I would like your responses to help inform my views.

In some conversations, I hear children in foster care in the U.S. referred to as America’s orphans.

Do you think the word “orphan” is appropriate in this context?

Are You A Liar ?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Heidi Cox, Gladney’s General Counsel, led an Ethics discussion at the NCFA conference last week. She has taught and researched Ethics extensively. Her comments are provocative and usually cause uncomfortable introspection.

In last Friday’s session, she basically said “We all lie”. My immediate reaction was “Not me!” Another colleague posed this situation: If I knew a birthmother was in the dorm at Gladney, and the birthfather came to Gladney, had a gun, and asked me if she was there, what would I do? I’m fairly certain I would lie to protect her.

Some principles we consider absolutes (“I don’t lie”) can be trumped by even bigger issues (the life of a birthmother).

My concern is that once any of us acknowledge that we could lie under an extreme circumstance, it can become a slippery slope.

Let me offer an example. A birth date on the document of a little girl in Ethiopia is entered incorrectly. It’s a “3”, but should be an “8”. If a caseworker makes the edit by simply rounding out the “3” to an “8”, the girl avoids a further 30 - 60 day delay in coming home to a permanent loving family.

As painful as it is to say this, I would not want our caseworker to make that simple edit. That is the start of the slippery slope.

Your thoughts ?

Thoughts on International and Foster Care Adoption

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some critics of international adoption use the argument that there are plenty of children here in the U.S. who need permanent families and these children should be our priority.

Gladney finds families for children in the Texas state foster care system and we find families for orphans in 7 countries.

With that as background, here is my perspective…..

Children whose parents aren’t living or who are unable to care for them should be our priority, period. The life of a child in Ethiopia or Colombia or China or Russia is as important as the life of a child in the U.S.

Some of our families sense a call, faith-based or otherwise, to adopt from a certain country and some sense a call to adopt from the foster care system. One is not more right or more noble than the other. Rather, we should simply applaud them all for responding to the stirring in their hearts.

There are, however, distinctions worth noting between the foster care system challenges and the global orphan crisis. Among them:

·         Magnitude of the problem – There are just over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. About 25% are “adoptable”, meaning parental rights have been relinquished. Using the more narrow definition of orphan (both parents deceased), there are roughly 20,000,000. Using the broader definition (one parent alive, but can’t provide care), there are over 150,000,000.

·         Safety Net – While poverty and hunger certainly exist in the U.S., children living in poor communities here still have access to education, medical care, food and shelter. There is no equivalent safety net in the poorest countries. Most children without parents are on the streets struggling to survive each day.

·         Trends – The number of children in foster care in the U.S. has been declining, while the number of orphans continues to rise due to poverty, war and disease.

We need to be cognizant of the needs of all vulnerable children – in the U.S. and beyond our shores.