Shifting Perspectives in Adoption


Since my husband and I first began our adoption journey 12 years ago, many restrictions, changes and shutdowns have reshaped the adoption landscape. Today, there are fewer large “sending” countries open such as China, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Russia and more and more obscure countries emerging like Congo (DRC), Nicaragua, and Samoa. Daily the number of orphans climb and seemingly there are more families willing to open up their homes thanks to organizations such as Show Hope, Christian Alliance for Orphans, Project Hopeful, Hope for Orphans….but fewer children available to be adopted.

Today, children waiting for a forever family are not the 0-2 year old healthy girls that many families are seeking. The majority of children needing a family in 2012 are 5 years old or older, part of a sibling group of 3 or more, or may have special needs. One of my resolutions for this New Year is that I will do a better job educating families who are searching for the perfect child to consider being the family for the child who needs them most, often called “the waiting child”. I once heard someone in the adoption industry comment, “We are in the business of finding families for children, not finding children for families.” I want to strive to remember that when talking to families about the current adoption situation and help families make a shift in their perspective and expectations.

I am a firm believer that each family must do an assessment of what is the best fit for their family, but there are many that chose the safest path. Most families think there will be less trauma and attachment issues if they go as young and as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, there are never any guarantees. Adopting a child under the age of 2 does not mean there will not be any attachment issues.

I do believe that if a family takes the time to thoroughly educate themselves and set realistic expectations (not the fairy tale, “and they lived happily ever after” kind) that they could open their hearts to an older child, a special needs child, or a sibling group. In the past 12 years, I have been a firsthand witness to see how impacting it can be for the child that no one wanted…the 11 year old boy no one wanted (who is now my son), the 16 year old girl that thought it was too late for her, the three year old little boy with special needs who wanted to look his best for a potential family in hopes they would like him and a sibling set of 3 that were happy they could stay together as a family…all it takes is shifting our perspectives. We need to focusing on what children need a family verses what children we think we need.

Lydia Tarr works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptions’ programs in Bulgaria and Ukraine. She is the adoptive mother of four children from Ukraine and was recognized as a 2013 Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Angels in Adoption Program.