International vs. Domestic Adoption

There have been times when we have been asked the question, “Why did you adopt internationally when there are so many needy children here in the United States?”

Granted, not many people have asked us directly.  Most have been on-line comments that sound more like, “Who do these people think they are?  Brad and Angelina?  They are just trying to be trendy.  It’s disgusting.”

Despite the tone of those nay-sayers, it is a question that some folks genuinely are curious about.  One answer I’ve heard others make with a smile is, “You are absolutely right.  How many children have you adopted domestically?”

Adoption is a very personal decision.  There are a great many reasons to adopt.  Our adoption came about in a very unexpected manner.  I met some children from Haiti.  They touched me in a way I can’t explain.  I began thinking about what it would be like to adopt internationally.

That’s what happened.  I never considered adopting domestically.  It isn’t that I didn’t care about children here in the United States who need families.  I simply didn’t think about it for my family, at the time.

Once we started the adoption process, I traveled to Haiti five times.  I saw what life in Haiti is like.  I did not get to the poorest sections of Haiti, but I certainly saw enough.  I know that life there is much harder than I would have ever imagined from simply looking at photos or watching television footage.

The orphanage Island Boy came from was one of the good ones.  There were approximately 50 children in “the village”, as it was called.  Each caregiver lived in their own dwelling with two children.  This dwelling was a small, concrete shelter with room for a bed or two and the few personal belongings of the nanny.  There was no running water and electricity only by generator.  Dirt was everywhere.  Toys were communal. Water was obtained from a well and cleaned in a water purification system.

Adoptive parents were welcome to visit “the village” at any time.  Guest beds might be available, if you checked ahead of time.  If there were mission groups visiting, families could come and pick up their children and stay at a local hotel.  No family was ever told they couldn’t visit their children during the long and arduous process.

As I said, this was a good orphanage.  During our first trip to Haiti, we met a family adopting from another orphanage.  It was a larger one that I had heard about online.  They described pulling into the orphanage gates and immediately being surrounded by children.  The children were all clamoring to be picked up.  All of them.  Begging for some love and attention.  This adoptive family told us there were 90 children and 4 caregivers.  Let me repeat that: 90 children and 4 caregivers.

That’s 22.2 children per adult.  That’s the size a classroom.  All day.  Every day.  How can a child be given the love and attention they need in that environment?

We met another man on the airplane after one visit.  He said that at his child’s large orphanage, families were only permitted visits at certain times of the year. There were significant portions of the year when adoptive families were not welcome to visit their children.

I have seen photos of orphanages in Haiti where babies are kept in cribs all day and all night.  They are changed.  They are taught to self-feed and hold their own bottles at an early age.  These cribs can be stacked and I’ve heard them referred to as “chicken coops”.  How can we expect babies to thrive in an environment like that?

Orphanages vs. Foster care?  There is no question in my mind which is better for a child.  Foster care is a place where children can be cared for in a family environment.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  I am simply saying that I know a tiny bit about orphanages in Haiti.  A teeny, tiny bit.  It is not pretty.

This brings me to another point that I have heard discussed.  Shouldn’t the children of Haiti stay in Haiti to be cared for by their own people?  Are international adoptions stealing these children away from their culture?  Who is going to be left in Haiti after these children leave, presumably forever, never to return?  At least that’s what some making this argument claim.

The answer is not so simple.  Yes, ideally children should remain in their home country and be raised by extended family.  The key word is “ideally”.  There are some cases where this is not possible.

There is not a mass exodus of children from Haiti.  Let’s consider the statistics.  According to the Office of Children’s Issues, United States Department of State, in 2009, 330 children were adopted from Haiti and came to the United States. Other countries adopt children from Haiti, as well.  It has been estimated that no more than 1, 500 adoptions take place each year in Haiti.

It is hard to find a definitive number of orphans pre and post earthquake.  Pre-earthquake it has been estimated that 200,000 children were Haitian orphans. This means that 15% of the children in Haiti are abandoned or orphaned.

In the United States, in 2008, an estimated 460,000 children were in Foster Care. 49% were ultimately reunited with their parents or primary caregivers.  Please check out the link to see more statistics.  Yes, there are children in need here in the United States.  Yes, there are many who are in need of a good home. Please, if you feel a call to do so, consider being a foster parent or adopting.  What a wonderful gift!

Here’s another one I’ve heard.  “Why not just support the people of Haiti?”  Yes, yes and yes.  Personally, we do support the people of Haiti.  We routinely give donations to organizations we know are doing great work.  We’ve seen people in action, doing great things and making big changes.  We continue to support Island Boy’s orphanage.

Please consider helping and donating what you can to worthy organizations.  It can be here, in the United States or wherever you feel drawn to.  Please help!

My main point here is that we are talking about children of the world.  We are all human beings who are part of this one world.  How can we determine which children belong in a family and which ones don’t?  Shouldn’t we all reach out and do all that we can to help the children of the world?

To answer the question, “Why did you adopt internationally instead of domestically?”  That’s simple really.  My youngest son was born in Haiti.

–Running Girl


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by marsha phillips on December 20, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    i loved your comments….. our church in “LOVE” with the orphans of Haiti…. and yes, we do support the orphanage… they are rebuilding in jan. ’11 and we are sending two teams down to begin building… as you know already some of them were there during the earthquake and our pastor did get his two children out after almost 5 years of trying….
    i am adopted myself at (8 weeks)…. totally love being adopted and
    especially adopted into the family of our Lord and Savior…
    keep up the great work you provide through your posts.


  2. great post. 🙂


  3. Posted by Melania on December 22, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Ding dang dong, ya done gone and made me cry again! thank you for sharing….I have a friend who is planning on adopting and has been trying to determine what kind of adoption is best for her family! The last statement says it all! Much love to you and the family this holiday!


  4. Posted by Kristen Hensley on March 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I absolutely love this website. I’m doing a research project on domestic vs. international adoption because I am also adopted and this cite is very uplifting. 🙂


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