Advocacy is an important part of international adoption. While some adoptive parents wait patiently for their agencies to match them with a child that corresponds to all those little check boxes the adoptive parents checked on their application, others scour the advocacy groups on Facebook or yahoo, or websites and blogs for a face or story that shouts "Me! I am your child!"
I fell into that second group. I am not patient nor am I good at adhering to our little check boxes because my kids and my life do not always fit into neat little categories that can be checked or unchecked.
When I found my daughter, I immediately (as in 17 seconds after first seeing her advocacy photo) showed her picture to some friends. One friend responded, "she sparkles!" And she did! And she still does, even as she sits on the coffee table and spills milk and congee on the floor.
For months after we had been matched with our Ava, I continued to draw attention to other children who caught my eye or tugged my heart strings or both. I bumped Facebook posts, shared blogs, emailed friends, and jumped for joy whenever one of those children were matched with a family. Advocating has never been my job, and I was not asked to do it. It is something of a compulsion. My eyes have been opened to children who need families and love. And since (my husband says) I cannot adopt every child I fall in love with and because I cannot “unsee” the needs of orphans, I advocate for the family impaired.
One day as I browsed the waiting child pages on Facebook, I saw her. I saw the Girl Who Glows. She was listed as a waiting child with our placing agency, and her needs were more than we had ever considered, but the GLOW. Despite her physical limitations and years of institutional living, her smile lit up her face with true joy. A few weeks later, my agency asked if I would advocate for her as part of a new parent-based advocacy plan: Sign. Me. Up.
I wrote heart felt blogs, bumped existing advocacy posts, researched her medical needs and spoke to people who had met her. I was so elated that I could help this beautiful girl find a family of her very own. And then the bad news: no one had expressed any interest in adopting my glowing girl.
Why? I asked everyone I knew, why?
But a quick search told me that many children with her special need and in her age range were waiting and had been waiting for quite some time.
In response to my desperate (and annoying) pleas, my husband suggested that we offer a grant for her adoption. That wasn't quite what I had in mind (can I be her mama?), but it was something considering I was heart broken that she must spend yet another day of her life in an orphanage. Honestly, my feelings do not make sense especially because they do not matter. Advocating is all about HER and HER needs.
Sometimes, an advocate realizes that they are the family they have been looking for all this time. The advocate sheepishly announces their match with the words, “I am a failed advocate” or “I am a horrible advocate.” In reality though, they are neither failed nor horrible. The only failure and/or horror would be to not to do anything… to walk away and pretend like you don’t know there are children who need someone to be their voice.
Sometimes, advocacy fails. Sometimes the child ages out of the system or passes away. In all the adoption training and support groups, no one has ever mentioned advocate grief—the grief and loss a person feels when the child they so desperately want to see as a beloved son or daughter never gets a family. In a way, it feels silly to acknowledge this grief because it isn’t about the person advocating. It isn’t about me; yet, I am human. I feel all the feels. I am mama bear--fiercely protective of a girl whose biggest need is a family.
My glowing girl still waits for a family, and I nervously hope that a family, but not just any family, finds her. I hope a family who will love and cherish her scoops her up and helps her reach her potential. When I look at her smile, I just know she is capable of great things.
To learn more about this Glowing Girl, visit Gladney's Superkids Blog or contact April Uduhiri at email@example.com.
Founded over 135 years ago, The Gladney Center for Adoption is a Hague accredited, adoption agency with international and domestic adoption programs. With adoption programs in Asia, Gladney is able to help parents adopt children of all ages. In each region that we work, we are excited to offer International Waiting Child Programs to help children who are part of a sibling group, who may be older, or have a medical need, to find a loving family and a permanent home. Gladney is able to work with families residing in all 50 U.S. states and provides individualized casework services to each family throughout the adoption process.
If you are considering adoption from Asia and would like information about our Superkids program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.