Sunday, December 25, 2011
My (old) life as an Adoption Coordinator
I woke up this morning and realized…I’m unemployed. I worked my last day at the adoption agency on Friday. For the last two years, my job has been a big part of my identity. I tried my best, but never could leave the job at work. There was always a family or child on my mind. Thinking about NOT going into the office on Monday is difficult. It makes me feel like there is something I am forgetting. Like I’m waiting in line to check in for a flight, but forgot my passport.
I have worked with so many beautiful children, 39 if I count my cases alone. I could name them all. Each one of these little angels took a piece of my heart, and I will always remember them. Each adoptive family has their story of their paperwork preparation, the days they waited on the waiting list, the anticipation for the referral call, the first time they saw the picture, the first time they met their child, the waiting, waiting and waiting, and the moment they came together. This story is somewhat different from my perspective as a coordinator and supervisor at the agency.
Every morning I would wake up and automatically check my email. The emails in my inbox would determine my entire day. It was a crazy feeling to receive an email from our Ethiopian staff saying they have children who need families. Each time I would open the email attachments of photos, my heart would sink. A beautiful baby girl, left abandoned on the streets, a 5 year old boy who's parents were taken from him, or a 10 year old boy who has been living on the streets and wanted nothing more than a family. It was a terrible feeling to open an email from a family who was upset, frustrated about waiting, annoyed about the process or contused about why. It was a wonderful feeling to wake up to an email from the Embassy saying the family had clearance to bring their child home. But best of all, was waking up to an email with pictures from a family at home with their children, together forever.
Every day at work brought a different challenge. First was getting information from different countries and trying to translate the broken English through phone or email. No matter how hard I tried, sometimes getting information was just impossible. The next step was contacting families and explaining what I know. Many were happy and cried with joy. Others were angry and cried out of sadness. The most frustrating part of my job was dealing with the challenges brought to us by the government agencies in country. They continually challenged inter country adoption, increasing frustration and decreasing trust in the agency and all coordinators. The worst part was not being able to do anything about it and having to say to the families "I don't know". There are millions of orphans in the world, being raised in orphanages that lack the essential food and water, leaving children without nutrition, education or a family. Why do we have to fight so hard to help them when there are so many people willing?
Referrals were full of mixed emotions. It would take weeks or even months to gather all of the documentation we needed on each child. While waiting, I would fall in love with each little face and could nearly wait to call their new family with their referral! At the same time, I was heartbroken thinking of the trauma this small person had already experienced and knowing it would still be months before they were home with their forever family.
I loved calling a family and telling them there was a child in need of a family, and they were it. It was a surreal feeling to share news with a family that would change their lives forever. Each family reacted differently the news. Some Adoptive Parents were quiet out of shock, others screamed or cried. Most were happy as could be.
I am lucky to be in touch with a number of these families, which provide me with chubby, smiling pictures of the little child I remember from the orphanage. The one with the frail structure and sad face, changed so quickly into a happy, healthy, and loved person. I've seen the other side of the story, when there are children left without an option. My heart breaks every day for the children I met along my journey who were not as lucky. It is then that I remember where my passion for this work came from, and makes me sad to say goodbye.
There are certainly days that I will not miss. I said over and over that I would stop checking my email first thing in the morning. Some days I would wake up and just shout “NOOOO”! The last thing I wanted to do was drive to work to give news that was sure to make so many people so upset. There is nothing worse than calling a family and telling them what they dread the most, they lost their referral. The child they have fallen in love with has been taken. Sometimes the biological family decided to parent, which in the end is a good thing. Regardless, it is painful and sad to see a family through this. Other times, the Ethiopian government won’t allow the adoption to be processed. This might be the most frustrating thing to have to explain to a family.
There are certainly pros and cons to inter country adoption. I agree it is in every child’s best interest to stay in their country of origin. It would be wonderful if there were enough programs for children to grow up in their country. I always said that in a perfect world, I would have no job. But the truth is that there aren’t enough programs for the number of kids in need, so adoption needs to be an option.
The truth of international adoption is that we don't have enough people in the world today aware of it's decline. The big organizations who do not agree with inter country adoption have the money and resources to fight their battle. There are few adoption agencies left, and not a lot of money to advocate. I encourage anyone who is interested in the issue to get involved. Visit www.JCICS.org and find out how you can help spread the world so in the future, orphans of the world will have the opportunity for a life beyond the walls of an orphanage.
My ending note is for the adoptive parents and coordinators out there. You live to help these kids and I honor this. I know that it takes a lot from you. It is not easy. While it can be happy, and fun, it is also frustrating, sad, infuriating, and confusing. Thank you for what you do. You are appreciated and you are not told that enough.