I know that in the full scope of trials in adoption the red tape that we faced was minor. I have heard absolute horror stories from those who have attempted to adopt internationally or from the foster system. Nonetheless, the Indian Child Welfare Act (IWCA) legislation threw us for a total loop. For this week’s Tuesday’s Trial post I want to discuss what it is like to have the government standing between you as the prospective adoptive parents and the expectant parents.
In my opinion the infertility and adoption road is one of the hardest paths a person can find themselves on short of a terminal disease. The longing, the hope and shattered dreams cycle of infertility treatment takes its toll on even the strongest of people. It is absolutely maddening to cycle through such extreme emotions month-by-month. Once it becomes apparent that conceiving a biological child will not be possible many of us step over into the world of adoption.
Adoption brings its own set of longing and hope and the possibility of deep pain. It is not on the rapid cycle of infertility treatment, but it is much more intense because the reality of an actual child is there. Although I have never been pregnant I imagine it is like being pregnant with a child which has as much as a 50% chance of dying depending on what statistics you read.
I longed to be attached to the baby because if it was going to be my son or daughter I wanted her/him to know that it was loved from the very start, but I knew that meant risking an incredibly painful grieving process if it resulted in a failed match. The first match we went through the birth mother choose to parent so I knew firsthand how hard it was.
It was not until our third match that we experienced legislative red tape. We had been on the infertility/adoption road for several years by that point. We were elated to be matched again! The day after we attended the ultrasound to learn that the baby was a girl we received the phone call that would jerk our excitement right out from under us. I remember the devastation and immediate longing for prayers on our behalf. We had choose to only disclose the match with our close friends and family, but that day we opened the door wide looking for as much prayer and support as we could get.
It was November and I was in the midst of a thankfulness challenge for the month on Facebook. Here is my post from that day:
“I AM NOT THANKFUL FOR RED TAPE! We found out that the birth father is 3/4 Cherokee and 1/8 Blackfoot Indian. There is a regulation in place that both the birth mother and birth father can agree on an adoption, sign the paperwork and the Cherokee nation can/will and do then take that child and place it on the reservation to be raised as a Native American. There is nothing the either us or birth parents can do to prevent it. We have to have this adoption now additionally signed off by 4 different tribal councils in order for us to parent this child. In researching it today, it sounds as if the Cherokee Nation typically does take the child.
I am beyond confused, frustrated and angry! Not only does this affect us, but this child, whose birth mother choose a specific set of parents based on religious beliefs, most likely would now, not be raised in a Christian home. It makes me so angry that, that could actually be allowed. Adoption is an incredibly difficult decision for a birth parent to make – and then the government could allow this to happen!”
Reading this post takes me right back to the raw emotion of the day. We were devastated that the government could interfere in this manner.
It took three months- five weeks before the due date- for the tribal councils to sign off on the adoption. We were stuck in a very difficult place. We wanted to love this baby girl and bond with the expectant family but knew that we needed to protect our hearts because of the increased potential for failure. I cannot imagine what it was like for the expectant parents who were attempting to make a choice for their child’s life knowing that the government could step in and take the baby if they choose adoption.
I understand that there is a time and a place for the government to step in. If we were attempting to adopt a baby from a couple living on a reservation I can see where the IWCA would apply. But hundreds of miles from any reservation, working with a birth father who was not even a registered Native American, it was appalling to see the government involvement in the lives of two young people who were trying to make an incredibly difficult decision and the difficulties that we had endured on our journey.
I do not know how people attempting to adopt internationally withstand watching the government hampering their ability to adopt a child that they have bonded with. I know that the regulations can change mid-process and that some legislation is so murky that it is interpreted differently by each social worker the couple works with. It has to take nerves of steel to be able to tolerate the road to their child(ren).
Infertility, waiting to be matched and the fear of a failed attempt make the road to our children daunting. Although I have witnessed the grief, I can only guess how difficult it must be to want to make the best decision for your unborn child and know that you may have to raise the child in an environment that you do not feel is best just so the government can’t interfere. The absurdity of our situation highlights just one of many aspects of adoption that can pose as a serious trial for all members of the adoption triad. It takes a serious degree of willingness to proceed despite adversity. It is not a journey for the faint of heart!