Walking the Tightrope of Adoption Cheerleading
Adoption can be a wonderful way to create a family, but it takes careful preparation to create strong, healthy, and lifelong adoptive families.

Over time I’m become weary (and I might add “wary” if I was going for an alliterative theme) of some of the rah-rah “adoption is wonderful” hype. Indeed, I do believe to the bottom of my heart that adoption is wonderful and life altering and life affirming for both child and parent, and my deepest prayer is that all children everywhere regardless of age, ability, race, or gender will find a home, but I also fervently believe that only through careful preparation can we create strong, healthy, and lifelong adoptive families. From where I sit as the director of an adoption education and support nonprofit, I’ve seen and heard more than my share of the heart ache that blind jumping into adoption can cause to well meaning, well loving families and the children they wanted so badly to “save”. To paraphrase Jedd Medefind, Executive Director of Christian Alliance for Orphans, in a conversation we had at an adoption conference a couple of years ago, “We [the Orphans Ministry Movement] have to move past being cheerleaders for adoption and into becoming educators for adoption.” If I had known him better, I would have hugged him at that moment.

However, truth be told, I’m a sucker for a heartwarming happy ending story. (You should see the chick-lit pile on my bedside table.) This might be my guilty reading pleasure, but I also really believe these types of stories have a place in adoption. Come on, admit it, who doesn’t crave some good old fashioned inspiration along the way to give us the courage to take the leap or to keep us going when we hit a rough patch.

Someone in our online community recently told me about a veritable fount of inspiration—The Archibald Project, a nonprofit started by two very gifted photographers/videographers with the mission of using  media and documentary storytelling to educate and inspire people to adopt. In many ways this project exemplifies the tightrope of adoption cheerleading—navigating that fine line between realism and optimism. The Archibald Project gave me much to love and a little to fear.

The Love Part

The Ivey’s had a son by birth and then, inspired by their friends who had already adopted, they adopted three children both domestically and abroad. This video is like seeing friends adopt, making it less alien and more doable. As Jamie, the mom, says, “If you are thinking about adoption, learn about it …go to informational sessions… be proactive…do something.” She’s my kind of lady.


The Fear Part

The Jones family’s story is more troubling, or to be more accurate, the way their story is portrayed in this video is troubling to me. Bill and Kelli first heard about Eliana, a 13 year old girl who would soon age out of adoption according to Chinese law, on Dec. 6, 2011, decided to adopt her two days later, and brought her home in eight short weeks. I understand the need for speed in this case with a child who would soon be too old to qualify for adoption, but I worry that it leaves the impression that you don’t need to take time and learn all you can about how best to parent a child that has spent almost 14 years in an institution. A comment by Bill acknowledging that Eliana’s happy-go-lucky behavior likely was covering up the real emotions of a scared confused young girl belies at least some preparation, but the video had an uncomfortable Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney “Hey, let’s put on a show” quality to it . I wouldn’t want this to be the example of how to adopt an older child


The “Darn, I Wish I Could Do That” Part

When the Vias faced the not untypical international adoption delays and feet dragging, they decided to up and move to Uganda. If they couldn’t bring Chloe home, they would take home to Chloe. They are living the fantasy of many adoptive parents when faced with bureaucratic delays, and I so enjoyed seeing them take such a bold step for their child.


On balance, I thoroughly enjoyed The Archibald Project videos. They are a pleasure to watch, and the fact that we clearly share the same taste in music added greatly to my enjoyment. They have other videos, so check them out when in need of a little rah-rah, which for me is often.  What do you think? Is there a place for adoption cheerleading?


Image credit: The Archibald Project