Written by Dianna Brodine, a Prospective Adoptive Parent who is traveling to Vietnam to adopt in early November.
What responsibility does the AP (or long-time PAP) have to educate new PAPs?
Even before I open this dialogue with you, I should explain that 20 months ago I was one of ‘those’ PAPs. We had talked about adopting from China for more than a decade. When we finally looked into the process, we realized we wouldn’t qualify (who knew medical school loans would be viewed as a negative?). We made a few calls and started out in the Korea program of a well-respected agency. When Korea made changes to its process, I panicked and switched to Vietnam. I knew nothing about the process. I knew nothing about the country. I was desperate to find a country that would accept us as parents for one of their children. Never mind that we had two beautiful daughters. Never mind that we were both college-educated and steadily employed. Never mind that research is a must in my field of employment. My desire for a child and my worry that no one ‘wanted’ us developed into a full-on panic about the future growth of my family. But our adoption agency had a newly-opened program in Vietnam. They had a program before the shut-down. They’d stayed to render humanitarian aid. And Vietnam wanted us.
We were lucky. Not lucky that a country would accept us as parents for one of its children, but lucky because we were with an agency that would qualify as ‘one of the good ones’. Did I have any idea at the time? No. Am I incredibly grateful for my good luck now? Absolutely.
That experience softens my opinion of the posters who say ‘I need to find an ethical agency that will allow me to bring home a 4 month old baby girl”. I understand the panic. I understand the desperation after months (or years) of infertility. I understand the sense of urgency that takes over once you make the decision to adopt. And I, more than many, understand the panic that ensues when your country of choice makes changes that calls into question the status of the child you want to bring home. But none of those things excuse a rush into an agency choice without proper research.
And that’s where the folks who have been there come into play. Do I get tired of explaining why AYAP ASAP isn’t necessarily a good idea? Am I sick of explaining why quick travel times are sometimes a mark of referral type and other times a huge red flag? Am I weary of posts from families defending their agency choice simply because they have committed too many financial and emotional resources to back down at this stage of the game? Yes, yes, yes. Am I an expert? No. But I’d like to think that each time I offer my opinion (yes, it’s an opinion), I’m providing another point of view. Maybe some of the readers of my replies see me as the voice of experience. I’m sure some readers find me an irritating naysayer. But I believe it is my responsibility to share what I’ve learned in the 1 ½ years I’ve been around Vietnam adoptions. I’m also sure I’ll learn more when I travel to Vietnam in a few short days to bring our child home.
What I’ve learned, I’ve learned because I’ve been willing to listen to the voices of those who have gone before me. There are agencies we should avoid. There are practices that should wave huge red flags. And there are questions we should all ask before signing an agency contract. But how are new PAPs to know these things if those who have been there before don’t keep their voices in play?
I, for one, will make public my blog once I’m home. I went ‘private’ to protect the identify of my child once I received my referral. But I made sure Nicki and Christina had full access, because if anyone would recognize corruption in adoption, it’s these two ladies. I will also continue to reply to questions on the Vietnam adoption web sites. My voice will be heard and hopefully my voice, and the voices of everyone who has gone before, can help to protect the future of adoptions in Vietnam, protect the ‘newbies’ out there who are feeling the stress of the non-transparency of information, and protect my own feelings of responsibility to this adoption community and to my daughter, who should know that the ethicality of her adoption might not have been uppermost in my mind when we started the process, but is ultimately the most important thing I can give to her now.