Disclaimer: I am not a parent nor am I adopted. I simply am writing based on my experiences with adopted adults and children, my brief experiences overseas, and my background in youth development. Also, I’m smart. So there.
About three months before I graduated from college, word on campus spread that the commencement speaker would be America’s Favorite Giver Away of Things, Ms. Oprah Winfrey. Interestingly enough, the response from my peers was mixed. Many were excited, others were nonplussed, and some were even angered. “How dare that woman who doesn’t give back to her own people speak at our graduation? I’ve never liked that ole mammy looking woman.”
Then, as usual, the discussion arose around Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls, a school she opened in South Africa. People complained that she should have opened a school in the U.S. and helped people here versus traveling so far. I have to admit, I was a little curious as to why you’d literally travel ACROSS needy children to find OTHER needy children you’d like to help. And then, in March 2011 when I visited Liberia, I got it.
The majority of my career and volunteer experiences has been grounded in youth development, particularly for “needy” children across the US. I’ve seen kids who couldn’t participate in after school programs because they had to go “work” (read: be corner boys a la The Wire), and students wearing thin, short sleeved shirts in 40 degree weather. I know that there are real almost “third-world” (I HATE that word) conditions in America. And yet… there’s a glimmer of hope for every single one of those kids. Every child I’ve ever encountered in America has access to at least one library, whether it was a locally funded one, their school’s, or one provided by a local Boys & Girls Club. We can talk about all the obstacles that make it difficult for that child to visit a library or even read a book, but that doesn’t change the fact that the access is there. While it’s seemingly small to many, access to libraries is one of severalAmerican privileges that cracks open the window of opportunity for the underprivileged.
Last spring, I traveled with my church to Liberia to work in their schools. Honestly though, my brothers and sisters there taught me more than I was able to give them. One of the things that really stuck out for me though: Liberia does not have a single federal or locally supported library. There is not one government-funded building where you can use the Dewey system or look up your favorite Goosebumps title. The few libraries there are privately owned and can only be accessed if you are especially privileged or lucky. (Read: Ballin’ so hard the police wants to fine you.)
Immediately, Oprah’s passion in South Africa clicked for me. The type of need in developing countries like Liberia, Indonesia, Sudan (both of them jawns), is in an entirely different stratosphere than that of American kids. As bad as kids in SEDChave it, I promise you… somebody somewhere else has it worse. My life’s work is evidence that my focus is on American kids, however, I recognize why someone would feel compelled to invest their dollars and love overseas. A Peace Corps member once provided the following analogy: “The odds of a kid making it out of the ‘hood in America are like the odds of winning the lottery. But Botswana ain’t even got no Powerball.”
Are there challenges? Well of course. Parenting, particularly adopting children inherently has its own challenges; adding a new culture only further complicates things. You’ve got concerns about preserving that child’s identity, how to instill them with pride in their own country/region, the immense paperwork, and a myriad of other things. But I’m willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of kids whose parents met those challenges head on appreciate that multifaceted investment. And in the end, isn’t that what matters? Finding a home for a child who needs one?
I know many folks have issues with celebs like Sandra Bullock and Brangelina’s presumably fad-like international brood of children. Folks question their motive and wonder if there just doing it because it’s a trendy thing to do. I don’t know them, so I can’t speak on their behalf. I will say this though:
If the adopting parent(s) have a sincere desire to do what’s best for a child that hails from a different country than their own, the positives derived from providing said child a home significantly outweigh the challenges associated with doing so.
Give me your opinions, dissenting or not: I’d love to hear them. Part II will discuss interracial adopting, particularly White parents adopting non-White kids.
Also if you’re looking for an opportunity to have an amazing time while ensuring that an American (DC) kid has a great Christmas, please come out tomorrow:
Karaoke for a Cause
Liv NightClub | 11th & U Street NW
(above Tap & Parlor)
Thursday, Dec 15th, 2011 |6 – 10 PM
Bring a toy or $20 for a food basket at the Southeast White House
I can't wait to see you there! Feel free to email any song requests! lol!