Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Should These People Be Allowed to Adopt from Ethiopia?

I know, I know, before I even open this can of worms, someone is going to remind me that I didn't have to pass any tests or prove my worth before I became a mother. And it's true, the burden of proof imposed upon adopting parents is high, but sometimes, just sometimes you have to wonder if some people really should be allowed to raise someone else's children.

Case in point, recently Sports Illustrated magazine ran a cover story on "The Fabulous New Life" of Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. Included in this fabulous life of fame, wealth, and a lovely wife who is a former contestant on Survivor, a one-time Playboy model and a publicity whore (and I mean that in a technical way. I used to be a PR whore when I worked as a publicist in NYC. It's not a job I enjoyed and felt dirty every day.), is a plan to adopt a child from Ethiopia. And not just any a child, but an "AIDS orphan." Why? According to Hamel's wife Heidi, it's "the right thing to do." She elaborated on their plans in the article.

"We're in the process of adopting an AIDS orphan from Ethiopia," she said. "Maybe two. I'm so pumped. I'd adopt six if I could. When I was five years old—I grew up in a very rural town in Missouri, and I had never even seen a black person—they asked us to draw a picture of ourselves in the future, and I drew myself holding hands with a line of tiny black stick figures. I've always wanted this." She and Cole are also preparing, under the auspices of the fledgling Hamels Foundation, to build a girls' school in Malawi. Heidi has made a couple of monthlong research trips there. "We're not just doing it because it's the Brad and Angelina plan, but because we're in the position to do it and it's the right thing to do," she said.

For some reason, that just creeps me out. How could anyone use the word "pumped" in relation to children who have been orphaned because of a horrible disease? What's more, is a woman who admits she never knew any Black people growing up, but liked to draw black stick figures, really ready to face the challenges of rearing a child of color in the United States? Shouldn't somebody call Ethiopia or something and warn them of this impending disaster? Or am I being too harsh? I don't think Hamels and his wife are bad people, and I think it's amazing that they are committed to trying to help those most in need, but maybe they should concentrate their efforts on building that school, instead of adopting 6 orphans. Or maybe they could spend some of their money sponsoring a child in Ethiopia, instead of bringing them to Philadelphia. Not everyone has to adopt a child to show they care. There are so many ways to make a difference.

In situations like these, you want to say their hearts are in the right place, but Lord knows, that is not nearly enough to deal with a child of another race, from a different culture, with a potentially fatal disease that comes with its own set of stigmas. It really just isn't enough. Thoughts? Would you sign off on this couple adopting an Ethiopian child with AIDS?


p.s. If you'd like to read the entire SI article, you can read it here.


Spring @ forever spring said...

Ooohhhh...sounds like they want to adopt a cause, not a child. This does not bode well for their success as adoptive parents, since we all know that the very worst reason to adopt is the wish to save a child. Well intended, perhaps. Scary nonetheless. Let's hope they were misquoted.

Cloudscome said...

It's true she sounds like an idiot here. But maybe the kids and the Ethiopeans she meets in the process will give her an education and she will get some wisdom. We all start out as fools in one way or another. If we all had to pass a test before we were aloud to get involved in making a difference there would be a lot less going on. At least she is taking action and trying to get somewhere. Could be she just doesn't know how to talk about it yet. I'd give her a chance to learn what she was getting into and to grow. I for one am a better parent now than when I started out. It's too easy to judge someone in a magazine.

susan said...

She sounds incredibly naive. I agree with Cloudscome about judging someone from an article alone.

I have had friends who purposely adopted children of color. They are great parents. I knew them and we had a few conversations about their motivations. Maybe, if we knew more, we'd feel a little more at ease. Hopefully as she goes through the process she'll either learn more and be a great mom or she'll realize before adopting that her good intentions were more fantasy than a real grasp of what being a transracial family means.

JP said...

She sounds young, idealistic, and unprepared. But...(and this is sarcasm)...they have the "means" so a nanny and staff of assistants will probably raise the child anyway. The whole scenario, for so many reasons, is sad. And disturbing.

Btw, you've got a great blog and I really enjoy reading it.

LT said...

Thanks for the insight. I hope we're both wrong.

CC & Susan,
I agree that judging someone from one article is not exactly fair, and I guess I'm also judging her subconsciously by her other actions, like her decision to pose in Playboy to prolong her Survivor fame and other kind of media hungry stunts. So I'm just left feeling that this AIDS Orphan thing feels a little shallow. But again I don't know her and in the end, for the children's sake I really hope I'm wrong.


Thank you! I'm glad you found the Meltingpot. And I agree that in some ways the whole scenario is sad, if in fact this woman is looking for accolades instead of family.

JBH said...

LT - I'm with you on this one! As a transracial adoptee myself, adopted in the 1960's (talk about parents who were motivated by a cause and a sense of social justice), and raised in a white hope is that the Hamels are parents eager to learn and take on a whole new facet of parenting! My hope and goal as an adult adoptee is to make sure that adoptive parents don't go into adoption without knowing the full picture. That's why I've created a powerpoint presentation, sharing my story about my racial identity and growing up "not looking like anyone else." And this growing up took place in W. Mt. Airy (Philadelphia) and in Friends schools! As long as adoptive parents know that there is an extra dimension and seek out friends who can support them when their child hits their teen years...I'm all good with folks adopting transracially.

LT said...


I didn't know you grew up right here in Mt. Airy. Maybe you should invite the Hamels to come view your presentation. Clearly they need a little racial sensitivity training.

Anonymous said...

I'm coming at this as an adoptive Mother. I went through a long and drawn out process to bring our beautiful daughter home from Colombia (her other home country).

I hope the comments are just naive, meaning she wants to do something to improve the world and become a mother at the same time. Adopting an orphan isn't a joyous thing. We we brought our daughter home, I was struck with grief wondering if I could honestly raise a "brown" child. I wondered if I could teach her to have pride in her roots... And, I grieved for the birth mother who had abandoned her for murky blend of poverty and mental illness.
For this I'm often at odds with the adoption community because I don't believe my child is better of here than in Colombia. (I just happened to not mind that she had a heart murmur or darker skin tone.) I don't believe that adoption is joyous. It stems from loss. This things aren't talked about as openly as the should be.

However, You said something like "raise another person's child". I take great offense to that. She's my child. 100% my child. By her being 100% my child doesn't make her any less a child of her birth mother nor the foster mother who cared for her for 15 months. I found those remarks just as offensive has anything quoted from the Sport's Illustrated article.

I do however think that both stem from the same place, goodwill and inexperience handling the topic at hand.

Por favor sigue escribiendo. Disfruto mucho el blog tuyo.