When I thought about adopting a child, my list of reasons about why I couldn’t began like this:
- Family impact
When we entered an adoption process close to 11 year ago, we were also too busy, too broke, too tired, too everything. But, still we did it.
Our lives were forever changed.
As I sit in my office today, re-reading that list, I quickly realize that it hasn’t changed much.
I’m guessing others have similar mental lists if they’ve ever considered fostering or adoption. Most of those lists, like mine, end up filed away for another, not-so-busy station in life.
Somewhere, though, there is a child who hopes someone can eventually see past the hurdles that leaves our lists tucked away.
Somewhere there is a child whose struggles put mine to shame – a child whose obstacles are far more monumental, dire and immediate.
Somewhere there is a child spending much of his or her day waiting and worrying about what’s next: the next meal, or the next home he will be placed into, the next time she will see Mom, Dad or Grandma.
Somewhere there is a child who wonders whether there will be another next.
Yes, somewhere there is a child, and that breaks my heart and leaves my list rather inconsequential.
And, in this somewhere, these children have very simple needs – to be “normal,” to be loved, to be part of a family, to have someone to help with homework, to have a little sister to fight with, to play on a soccer team.
Somewhere there is a child who doesn’t want you to save him or her because, in fact, this child has done nothing wrong. These children who wait just want a chance.
There are too many of these waiting, worrying kids — an estimated 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system today.
That figure makes me sad.
My list of why I can’t (or won’t) help, makes me sick.
And, for me, the tug between life’s unending list of responsibilities and the pull of the need that I know exists in the foster and adoption systems is paralyzing.
I’m so glad that such paralysis didn’t exist for me a decade ago.
Our adoption story
Adoption formed my family in 2007 when we adopted my oldest son, Yosef, from Ethiopia. I remember so much about that time – some things fondly, others more solemnly:
- We still have the banner my family members used to welcome us home.
- I remember putting Yosef’s last diaper on as we boarded a flight in Washington, D.C., the last of three flights to home and our 20th (and last) diaper on a 16-hour journey.
- The honk of the car horn as our driver ripped through the towns on the Ethiopian countryside as we traveled to meet Yosef’s birth mother still rings in my head.
- I fight back tears as I recall the sorrow of his birth mom not making it to meet us that day (we heard that she’d mistakenly been there the day before).
When I think about our adoption, I recall about 99 percent joy and 1 percent pain.
I certainly cannot empty the pool of pain, but I can choose to swim in the deep end of joy on most days.
Families of adoption can do so only because, at some point, we put aside our lists – the notes of all the practical things that made fostering or adopting seem a far-off commitment that we couldn’t make.
My personal “somewhere” was Ethiopia – a long distance from my home and an even longer way from my ability to think about adopting or fostering again.
That time and place feel so far away until about 4:30 each weekday afternoon.
That is the time Yosef comes home from middle school, parks his bike and says, “Hey, Dad!”
He smiles and that is enough.
Yes, my list is still there, still filed away – just not important anymore.
Yosef is my somewhere child.
And, somewhere there is a child that can save you.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tobin Walsh writes the blog The Good-Bad Dad, and is an aspiring author and speaker. The Florida resident is a father of five. You can follow him on Twitter or Facebook, or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.