Just head to the baby market and like, get one?
A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows of the conversations you have at brunch.
This is Part 13 of a series. For a recap of Part 1, click here.
You just gotta get out there
"I don't get it... why don't they just adopt?"
Be honest. Have you ever felt this way about people you've heard are doing 10 rounds of IVF, having trouble conceiving, doing surrogacy, or have given up on having kids at all?
I'll be honest: I have.
Before I started our family-making process (at risk of overusing the word 'journey' like an Australian Idol contestant) I would hear of these stories and think, man, why don't they just adopt? There's so many kids out there who need a home, why are people so obsessed with their own DNA, or, why have five of your own kids when you could help another?
As I've since learned, the only people who actually say this are those who already have their own biological children, or those who have no f*cking idea.
When I was younger, and things like marriage, a house, getting taller and kids were tick-offs that were just going to... you know... 'happen,' I always envisioned adopting. I loved, and still love, the idea of one or two of my own, and one or two adopted. Two to three in total (probably two. Any more and you're outnumbered). I also thought, if I end up having two boys, I can adopt a girl, or vice-versa.
I loved the idea of being pregnant at least once, just to know what it feels like, to go through what the majority of women have done since the dawn of time, and yes, to see what a child of my partner and I looks like, acts like, what their likes, dislikes, dreams and aspirations are. Is it nature or nurture? Who would they be? What will they become?
I also loved the idea of providing a stable home for a child who may not have otherwise had one, and giving this child all the love and security they would need to thrive. I knew my partner would be the best dad in the world to both types of kids as well.
This yearn to give an adopted child a home only grew stronger after we got a rescue dog in 2019 (people with rescue dogs get this, people without, that's on you). While difficult at first, adopting a dog has been one of the best things to ever happen to my cold and selfish ways - and you feel fine giving her everything - after all, she's a rescue, she deserves it more!!!
But I digress. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what the adoption process was. I had heard it was hard, but I didn't understand the difference between adopting in Australia and overseas, timeframes, who could and couldn't, how much it cost, and the time it would take. My only real knowledge came from Jennifer Lopez's (obviously amazing) performance of a character adopting in What to expect when you're expecting, and the funny relationship between Stanley Tucci and his adopted kid in Easy A.
So... why can't you just adopt?
As I have since learnt, as of 2023, all adoptions in our state must go through the Department of Justice, whether you are looking to adopt a child from Victoria or one from South Korea. You can't simply head to an orphanage in India and just... pick up a baby. All of this is good and bad, and the below is just my opinion.
The good part is, obviously, people need to be vetted, and it's good in a way that the process is so arduous and stringent so that these children go into safe homes. No one should be able to cruise into a country and just pick up a child and walk out.
The down side is, it can be extremely disheartening to know how many children around the world live waiting for a family, but the bureaucratic process makes it extremely difficult to provide one, even when you're ready, willing and able.
When I started looking into it properly, I was sent documentation to read that was longer than War and Peace. Toward the end of some 50-odd pages, you're basically told that the waiting list is full, and that there is basically a three year wait to just get ON the waiting list. We were devastated, but decided the best thing we could do is just start right away.
You are also given information about the adoption process. For instance, as people who live in the state of Victoria, the aim would be for the Department to place us firstly with a Victorian child, with the system being quite different in other states. You can also apply for international adoptions, but then each country is another separate application. Adopting from overseas is also extremely difficult, and Australia only has adoption agreements with certain countries, known as The Hague Convention.
For example, many countries won't allow access to single mothers, parents over 40, gay parents, or even anyone with anxiety issues (so... everyone?) To me, a lot of this is ludicrous, considering this is the main cohort of people who would want to adopt. I also feel that anyone going through this whole process is someone who wants so badly to be a parent, whereas anyone can just give birth even if they're a terrible parent. It's a warped system and needs an overhaul for sure.
Then, most of the countries that will even consider you have extremely long waiting lists - for a baby from China, you're looking at 10 years minimum. In Thailand, single mothers are only able to adopt a child with special needs. Sri Lanka prefers to only deal with Sri Lankan adoptive parents. To adopt a child from South Korea, you must have been legally married for three years - no de facto, single applicants, or gay applicants allowed. From Poland, they are usually aged 7 and above with severe issues like blindness or heart disease, and even then, they prefer if you are Polish. Hong Kong prefers a Chinese background, takes 3+ years, and children have usually faced significant challenges. And these are just the countries where we would be considered. We don't qualify for the rest.
In Australia, adoptions since the 1970s are down a whopping 93 per cent. In many ways, this is of course great news - there is less stigma on teen pregnancies, single mothers and divorce, as well as more awareness of contraception and abortion. But for those looking to adopt, it can be disheartening.
In the 2019-2020 period, only 48 local adoptions were completed in the whole of Australia.
Between 2021-2022, just 12 intercountry adoptions were finalised. For gay people, the stats are even worse - a total of just five children have been adopted by same sex-couples since 2017. FIVE.
So, this is what you are up against before you even begin.
We did fill out an application and met with someone from the Department. She then explained to us that getting on the list didn't necessary mean it was your 'turn.' It meant you are now part of the pool of parents who can be considered with the placement of a child, but that it depends on that child's circumstances, as well as your own, and that it was never guaranteed that it would even happen. This of course makes sense - you don't just 'get' a kid because you're #2 and you waited three years. It needs to be a match that satisfies the complex physical, social, and emotional needs of all involved.
Even then, and this part may upset some, but I want to be real - you are dealing with children who have been through significant physical or mental trauma, a lot of the time, both. The example we were given is that we could wait three or so years to go into the 'pool.' And after that, the type of children they place usually have complex individual needs.
"Right now," she said, "We are looking to place a 12 year old girl who is deaf and mute and in a wheelchair, and will need assisted living the rest of her life."
Your heart stops, and then goes wildly in two directions. The first, I'm sorry, is an oh my gosh, I cannot do that. I cannot handle that. I cannot take that on. The other part of you thinks, oh, this poor, poor person who just needs someone to love and care for them. Then you start feeling like the world's most evil person because you don't think you could handle the sadness and trauma of caring for an adoptive child who can't speak, hear, eat or go to the toilet by herself, and will be like this for life. Basically, you just feel like a giant piece of sh*t.
She said that the majority of children they place are older, have been through the foster system, and have significant issues ranging from blindness to deep-rooted trauma and violent outbursts.
Of course, this is not everyone. Many children do not have these issues, and even the ones that do, can go into loving families and thrive, they're the ones who need it most. But statistically speaking, many of these poor children have been through the ringer, and really need the kind of parents who can step up and be heroes.
Were we those people?
We didn't know. And there may be some who consider us disgusting and selfish, and those who understand. But you will never truly know until it is you. It felt like one thing to accept when it happens to you - for example, your own child is in an accident, or you make a choice to dedicate your life to assisted living. But when you've already experienced a lot of trauma yourselves and are forced down a road you didn't think you would be at, the prospect of it then turning out to be even more difficult, for the rest of your life, was a challenging question to answer on the spot.
Afterward, we discussed, and decided we would need more experience as parents to know if it was something we could take on, and make sure that we are the people who could give a child like this the love and nurture they also require and deserve. For us, it wasn't a hard no, but in the end, we decided it was a not right now for this particular situation.
After this, we were given a questionnaire to fill out - you have to give a lot about your own history, like your finances, your house, your job, your mental and physical health, and why you would make a good parents. I didn't know which way to go with the mental illness - do I say 'I'm fine now, I'm perfect, I'm clean!' to try and sound like I have my shit together, or do I acknowledge I have bad days and this would help me resonate if the child does too?
You are also required to fill in the world's worst checklist, where you are asked to place a tick or cross next to the physical and mental ailments you would and would not accept. For instance - could you accept a child with: Anxiety? Tick. Cleft lip? Tick. Marks or scars? Tick. And then there are sections like, Incest? Blind? Deaf? Mute? AIDS?
So you have to float between feeling like the world's biggest piece of sh*t, but being realistic with yourself and your partner about what you could handle. And again - who is to say that your biological child wouldn't have any of these ailments? These kids need love and a home as much as anyone, why are you such a f*ckwit monster that you won't care for a blind Sri Lankan boy born from incest that needs a home? You belong in hell.
But it's difficult. You have to be real, not just for yourself, but the child. Children aren't stupid - they know when people, particularly adults, are disingenuous, and they can feel it. I couldn't pretend that there were certain issues I felt I could deal with and have that child in a house where they feel like a burden. They deserve parents who provide that love, nurture and care. Maybe I could. But I wasn't certain, not at that point.
So we filled it in, hated ourselves, and got on the list to get on the list to get in the pool.
I tell you all this so that next time you think, "Why don't they just adopt?" There is no "just."
We want to. We're trying. We're waiting.
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