International Adoption: RED FLAGS!

Written and Photos by: Lauren Hayden

Written and Photos by: Lauren Hayden

I guess in some people’s minds, and even on my good days, our adoption should not be considered a “failed adoption”, because the reality is that truth was uncovered. The statement that we have made over and over again throughout our journey is that just because something looks right, doesn’t mean it is right. Red flag after red flag, our family’s perfect international adoption seemed to be crumbling before our eyes. We should have seen the writing on the wall. “Our daughter” is not an orphan, and out of ignorance we nearly molded her into one.

We began our international adoption from the Democratic Republic of The Congo and after being swept away by a video of a beautiful 2 year old girl dancing in an orphanage I put all logic aside and followed my emotions. I truly loved her from the moment I saw her, and being the protective man my husband is, he believed that she needed us. Both beautiful thoughts and emotions but weren’t ours to own yet as she was not ours. 

The first red flag we should have recognized was the short and vague communication coming from our agency. Thankfully we had an experienced adoptive DRC momma helping lead us through these questions and concerns. The next one was the lack of actual documents we received at her referral. Despite all of this, more families joined the agency, we received more photos of “our girl”, and my heart really wanted to believe that they were just not good at communicating with us.

I realize now their vague answers were because they didn’t have the answers. They didn’t even have the documents to verify the background stories of the children they were placing.  We began to realize all of this when I demanded documents and it took weeks for the agency to receive them from the lawyer in DRC before they could get them to me. That push to demand documents came only after I began to have overwhelming concerns due to international adoption education coming from The Archibald Project podcast, documentaries, and past adoptive DRC mommas.

Just to lay it out in plain sight for you, these are the red flags we we’re blinded by because we were so swept up in moment:

  • Lack of legal documents shared at referral

  • Short emails with very little information about what was next in the process or what was even going on

  • The cost of the foster home she was in

  • A timeline going from 9 months till coming home to 2 years till coming home

  • The stories being shared by other adoptive mothers in our private group

  • How hidden the homecomings of children were until they were “official on U.S. soil”

  • That we had to have escorts bring our children to us, we couldn’t go to them

The list goes on but I only began to realize these things after talking to women who are actively involved in creating a world where adoption is ETHICAL! They challenged us to ask hard questions and gave us the words to demand things of the agency. They empowered me and gave me the light, in order to shine it into the darkness that was our adoption process. As the light got brighter and brighter, our hearts were continually becoming more and more shattered. Throughout this investigation, we uncovered that our girl does in-fact have a momma that just couldn’t provide for her.

It has literally taken us a year to finally sign the documents to stop the process for good.  It has been the hardest and most costly decision we have ever had to make. We continued to pay her foster family for a year while we investigated at our own cost to find the truth. Yet, the money, the time, the hours of turmoil, the lost relationships, were nothing compared to bringing ourselves to a place of actually walking away from the beautiful girl we thought was going to be our daughter.

Over the past few years I have learned that adoption always has two women involved. I believe that God makes every child and God made this beautiful little girl in the belly of another mother. When I put myself in her shoes I realized there was no looking the other way. If I didn’t have the resources to find my daughter or prevent her from being adopted, what would I do? I would pray for someone to step in and search for me, to stand up for justice and to stop the process. “Our girl” deserved better, and her momma deserved someone willing to do what was right.

I want to encourage anyone considering adoption to reach out to those speaking up about ethical adoption practices. There are true orphans in the world, but they may not fit into the image of the child you want. And if they don’t, my question to you is simply, why do you want to adopt? If we truly believe in adoption we need to be willing to wait as long as it takes, we need to lay down so many expectations, and we need to hold the “middlemen” accountable. Domestically or internationally, it doesn’t matter, if we are pro-adoption then we need to make sure we are adopting children who truly need families and not allow ourselves to be fooled by people who prey on poverty and sell us the story of saving children. We began the adoption process with a desire to add to our family, the stigma of an orphanage told me a story of an “orphaned” girl who needed a family. In truth she has a family that the agency originally told me nothing but lies about.

As we uncovered “our girl’s” momma, we realized there are going to have to be many steps to take in order to try to reunify them. Due to well meaning people, getting her reconnected with her daughter is being delayed. The other adoptive moms who already have their kids don’t understand all that we have uncovered and have created an account to be able to send money to the foster family we had her in. I realize that they believe they are keeping her from going back to the orphanage, but as we understand it, until the money flow into the foster home stops, our avenue to get her back with her mother is nearly impossible. So for now we wait and try to stay connected enough to know that when the door opens to reunite her, we are ready to help in any capacity we can.

Caring for birth mothers has always been at the root of my heart and after our failed adoption I have realized that it’s much bigger than that. So many people in our community preach “pro-life” and I am very much pro-life, however I believe when most people say they are pro-life, they are actually just anti-abortion. If we are truly pro-life then we have to start to walk alongside the mommas that chose life for their children. I also believe that if we truly value children and their birth parents, we will do what is best for each individual child.

Questions that we asked in our international adoption:

-Ask to see orphanage intake documents, as well as investigation documents. 

-Ask how long a child needs to have been in an orphanage before being considered “available” for adoption. 

-Look into the cultural customs of families from countries you are considering. 

-But the most valuable insight I can give you is to seek out organizations that are focused on reunification and building up families. Then ask them where to go for adoption from that country. There are many organizations that are fighting for families all over the world, and if we believe in orphan care and adoption that means we need to make sure that if a child can be with their family they are, and if they can’t then and only then they find an adoptive family.

Here is an old blog post we did all about Questions to ask in your adoption!

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