I just finished reading a thoughtful and well written post over at www.lifeunderthecalicosky.blogspot.com in which a topic was addressed which I have not really ever written about here on our blog. It was the first part of her post which struck me as very important.
There are those who argue against international adoption for many reasons, the most prevalent being that it us unfair to "rip a child from their culture", leaving them with no cultural identity to connect with. Sounds like a good point, doesn't it? Especially when one considers all that a child must leave behind that is familiar, how extraordinarily difficult such a transition must be. There was a time when I had a hard time arguing against this one...
Adopting Kenny opened my eyes to an entirely new perspective on this issue. An older child has the ability to share more about what their life was like, how they perceived the world they lived in, and how they identified with their culture. We have had many stories shared over the past couple of years as Kenny has proceeded to meld his old life and new life into a new amalgamation that he can better relate to.
What anti-international adoption advocates don't seem to understand, which even my 10 year old clearly does, is that children who are institutionalized in an orphanage setting are so disconnected from their birth culture it is already as if they have been removed from their country. They are dehumanized, they are essentially jailed and they reside in an unsavory sub-culture of their birth culture...one which exists behind closed doors and is not revealed much to the outside world.
Kenny had to actually be taught about Kyrgyz culture, he had very little knowledge at 8 1/2 years old of the country he had been born and raised in. He thought he could speak Kyrgyz but was speaking Russian. He had no understanding of the nomadic culture, of the conflict between Russians and Kyrgyz as they try to stake out their claims, he had no idea that neighboring Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were so similar in so many ways. He knew he was Kyrgyz, but he had no sense of what that meant. Ask him about orphanage life and he could give you an earful, but he had never experienced every day life in his own country...his culture was that of an isolated orphan kept within the confines of an institution which could have been in Timbuktu for all he knew.
So I ask you, really, what is it that he was giving up that related to culture? Was he walking away from a part of who he was when he left Kyrgyzstan? Yes, but not in the way some might like to picture it. As a cleft affected child he would have most definitely remained in an orphanage until he aged out with an inferior education and no safety net to save him from drowning in the sea of that Kyrgyz culture he barely knew nor understood...for he would have never lived within it.
Kenny has a new culture now, as do all 3 of our sons. It is an eclectic mix of orphan culture, Kyrgyz and Kazakh culture, and American culture. Like any immigrant, they have assimilated into their new culture and yet still recognize they are Kazakh or Kyrgyz. Much as my husband still identifies with being Italian and yet when asked says "I am American".
Are children better off being adopted internationally than languishing for years in an institution? Of course they are, for the most important culture I have yet to mention is that of a family. Being in a family and being a part of the family culture is the single best remedy for a child who can no longer live with their birth family, regardless of the reason. Surprisingly there are those who would argue otherwise, but their argument dismisses the simple human need to belong someplace where we are loved, where we are nurtured and encouraged, where someone would be willing to die for us if need be. It is a need that surpasses all others, and it causes any other argument against international adoption to fall like a house of cards battered in the wind.
You can not argue with the fact that children grow better in families, period.