Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reflections on Adoption in Botswana

I just finished watching "The Cider House Rules" and, as I'm sure you can imagine, it has me pondering the idea of adoption. Of course, this is not a new or unique topic of thought for me - I am surrounded by orphans every day and have spent the last four years working with children in the foster care system. I have also made it quite clear that I intend to open my heart some day to foster and/or adopt children that need the love and support of a caring home. (In fact, when I left for Botswana six months ago, my family and friends joked about my coming home with a little Motswana child.) Given this, it is needless to say that this movie really tugged at my heartstrings. In reflecting on the story, my thoughts brought me back to a conversation we had during in-service training concerning adoption in Botswana.

We have learned that Botswana is plagued with an HIV/AIDS pandemic that has left countless children orphaned (and almost all considered "vulnerable"). With the loss of a parent, many children become separated from their siblings, as relatives in other villages divvy up children according to what they can accommodate. (Note: families are often large and poverty is common - the food baskets given to supplement when an orphan is taken in rarely is enough.) In some circumstances, orphans are merely left to be raised by older children or fend for themselves. As such, it would seem that adoption would be an obvious choice. That being said, adoption of Batswana children outside of the country is almost unheard of.

During in-service training, someone asked the Batswana staff what they would think of a child being adopted by someone from the United States. It was almost unanimous that it would be very uncomfortable for them and they would not like to see a child leave. The most asserted reason for this? That they do not know what kind of life that child would have abroad and they would not be able to watch out for them.

In my short time here, I have seen orphans rummage through my garbage looking for food, drink water out of a dirty (sewage) pond, and basically rear themselves, so the idea that a child would not be well cared for by adoptive parents from the United States seemed ridiculous by comparison. Life is hard enough for children in Botswana, let alone if they are orphaned. But, at the same time, the children are not necessarily abandoned here and I recognize the desire to watch the children grow and ensure that they are okay (no matter what that "okay" looks like). And, in truth, I never really considered the emotional impact adoption would have on the child's community. They have a right to raise their nation's children, even if their way of nurturing doesn't reflect my own (Americanized) standards. So, what I've come to is this: In reference to adoption, especially in cases like those in Botswana, the subject is complex and there is much more to be reflected on.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on the subject...

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