Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Disabilities, Revisited

Back in February we had to make some decisions about the types and severities of disabilities we would be willing to consider accepting in our adopted child. It wasn't easy, but we felt confident with our decisions when we were finished. However, we were contacted by our adoption specialist last week and asked to re-consider some of our choices. She was not trying to talk us out of the decisions we made, rather she was providing some new information that she felt we may not have had.

She shared that by checking some of the specific issues we had, it would almost guarantee that we would recieve a child with that issue. One of these was cleft lip. Cleft lip is not life-threatening in any way and is easily corrected by surgery. The surgery leaves a scar and therefore the child would not look "perfect". Matt and I felt confident that our child's physical appearance would not be an issue for us, and therefore felt comfortable saying we would accept a child with this issue. However, we hadn't considered what this might mean for the child.

As our adoption specialist pointed out (and we had also read in Does Anybody Else Look Like Me), our child will face some difficulties being the only person of Asian descent in our family. From what we understand, it is difficult for interracially adopted children at different stages of their life when they become oddities because they don't "match" the rest of their family. For some countries this is why it is not preferable to place children in a home that already has multiple "matching" children. It seems that interracially adopted children will face not only the expected insecurities of adoption ("Why did my mother give me up?", "Was I not a good baby?", etc) but will also face the challenge of explaining to their peers why they look nothing like their parents or siblings. They may hear things like "That can't be your mom/sister/dad, they're not Korean!" It is easier for these children if they are one of multiple adopted children with the same racial background, but when they are singled out it becomes very difficult. This is also true of a child with cleft lip. Once appearance becomes important (in early elementry school age) children with cleft lip can feel isolated and "different" due to the normally very obvious facial scar. How much more difficult would it be then for an interracially adopted child with cleft palate when they reach that same critical stage? Not only do they not "match" their family, but their scar makes them different even from other children of their racial heritage.

We are prepared to help our child understand that God forms families in many ways, and that God used another mother from another racial background to bring our child into the world. I am confident that with love and encouragement and constant communication we can overcome any difficult situation that our child will face. However, we now have to take a step back from what we're ok with and consider what is truly best for the child. Its not an easy decision, and we are going to have to go over our entire medical assessment again from the perspective of considering the child's interests first. Please pray with us as we do so!