For a family going through adoption -- both experiencing that process and having the vicarious experience of the history that child or children adds to their family -- is to find oneself immersed in a world that could have been written by Dickens. The path to adoption is a story full of characters almost unbelievably good, bad, or as oddly indifferent as those found in a Victor Hugo novel.
Reduced to the abstract, walking the road to the destination where a child -- a child! -- comes to live with a family not originally his or her own, my wife and I realized that despite many wonderful people people who officially and unofficially guided us through the process and guided our son to us, there are also many people, particularly in the collective -- governments, agencies both public and private, institutional settings -- who view these children as anything but that: a child.
What do I mean?
Most -- but certainly not all -- of the individuals who touched our son's life on his journey to us were certainly touched by his individual gifts to humanity. Even the sight unseen program officer at the Department of Homeland Security who gave the go ahead for our son to receive a visa felt compelled to write a personal note about him on a yellow sticky gratuitously placed on the otherwise indifferent paperwork that was her only real responsibility:
But the network of governments, policies, agencies and institutions that create the environment in which these people have to work did not see my individual child. They do not see these children as individuals, but rather as a class of individuals who must be categorized. And what those categories are do not depend on the needs of the individual children of which they are comprised, but the perceived interests of the society who creates them.
Again, what do I mean?
Let me start by enumerating the categories in which adoptive families find their children, sometimes languishing, always waiting. If one of these headlines seems shocking right now out of context, be patient: I invite you to come back as I explore and explain each in a series of blog posts, inviting you to not only read, but render your own comments and experiences as well.
Week 1: Children as Forced Converts to Preserve or Expand a Faith
Week 2: Children as Political Pawns
Week 3: Children as Assets and Liabilities
Week 4: Children as Culture War Tokens and Trophies
Conversely, if any of the above headlines seem obvious, I also invite you to come back and read their full exploration -- you may be shocked at the deeper meaning beyond the headline, and how none of us are exempt from responsibility for these categories' creation.
Finally, for now, these are the four broadest categories my wife and I actually encountered, and that impacted our child: his length of wait, his life while waiting, and, ultimately, how he came to be part of ours and not some other family. In the end, the first two are a cross he will always have to bear, a load we can share and hopefully lighten, but cannot deceive ourselves into believing we could ever lift entirely. The last -- that all of this led us specifically, these three individuals, to be a family -- we hope is what will redeem that suffering.
Of course, as you read these posts, if you have other experiences or have encountered other categories, please add and explain, for the ultimate goal of this short series @YellowHat is that these categories get called out in order that as a society we can instead call these children by name.
@YellowHatJSWGC is 1 of 3 streams of tweets and blogs from Good Counsel. To learn more, follow me on Twitter or visit the "Read Me" page at goodcounsel.squarespace.com