Thursday, February 13, 2014

Adoptive Parents With Disabilities

Conversations on adopting often center on certain questions such as, who is qualified to adopt? What types of children are available to adopt? How long will it take? etc. Oftentimes the conversations end up in the ballpark of able-bodied, financially sound couples hoping to adopt an unborn child, a child in an orphanage overseas, an older child in foster care. Lately I've been interested in the not so frequently discussed side of the adoption coin. Anyone who knows me likely isn't surprised, as my brain is a constant jumbled mess of thoughts and ideas of which adoption is usually a theme. 

I recently posed the question about why we see so few parents of color adopting trans-racially and a semi-fruitful discussion ensued within the adoption community. However folks' inability to choose intellectual courage and to hear out differing thoughts seemed to get in the way of meaningful and forward moving conversations. My initial question still remains - why don't black people formally adopt waiting children of color at the same rate as Caucasian's? In a similar respect to how adoptive parents of color are underrepresented, I've found that adoptive parents with disabilities are also underrepresented both in terms of adopting, and being able to speak out about their experiences.

The few stories I've heard to this end show that these parents are able to successfully adopt and parent children with their own physical, mental or cognitive limitations holding them back only to the degree they allow. In the same way adoptive parents should have guidance through the homestudy process in learning their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of mental stamina, community resources, or subconscious bias or prejudices, these particular families come in to adoption aware of their limitations related to their disabilities. Bob Vogel is a paraplegic who adopted through foster care. Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein have taken to the TV to showcase their parenting choices and Jamie Berke, an adoptive parent who is deaf, has established a listing of deaf children awaiting adoption at the Deaf Adoption News Service. I'd like to hear more stories like this!

Parenting does not come with a handbook. We all have different skills and abilities that would make us good (or not so good) parents of an child, whether via adoption or not. We adoptees often carry unique joys and difficulties, likely have some trauma history, oftentimes feel a sense of not belonging, or attempting to be chameleon in a world obsessed with putting people in boxes. Adoptive parenting also comes with its own unique needs - handling ignorant comments in a stern and respectful manner, fighting (or embracing) the need to seemingly always educate others about private familial matters, learning what areas are safe and accessible for certain behaviors, I could go on and on. Wouldn't it then make sense that perhaps caring adults with physical disabilities may be an especially great population to care for children in transition or needing to be adopted?