Hi everyone who reads this blog, including the several new readers I “see” out there (all those of you who read for longer than 0:00 seconds),

This week has been crazy and busy and action-packed with virtually zero sleep. All of the busy-ness ended on Wednesday evening, which meant that on Thursday, I had time to truly reflect on what the impending closure of Viet Nam to international adoptions means to us as a couple, us as a nation, prospective adoptive parents (which is seriously the last time I’m going to write that out), APs, birthparents, and children, not in that order, either. The upshot of that is that I’ve been cranky, emotional, teary, and overwhelmed in the last few days; hence, no updates. I’m planning to go to bed *early* tonight.

So…what to write about. I’ve been blogging in my head for the last few days so I have a lot to choose from. I’m going with adoption from Vietnam. If you don’t know us at all and are not interested in adoption, you might want to skip this post. If you know either of us at all, read on. I warn you, it’s long.

First, if you haven’t read the report from the U.S. Embassy in Viet Nam, please do so (actually, this is a better summary with excerpts from the Embassy report from VVAI). I was trying to explain to a friend today what that means to me, to us, to our plans, and I was having a hard time articulating it. We’ve been planning – either explicitly stated or just implicitly expecting – to adopt from Viet Nam at some point. Not now, because as I’ve said numerous times in this blog, it was just too much to us to think that coercion (of any sort) brought our child to us. After praying for so long about whether it is responsible for us to bear biological children – whether we know too much about our genetics, and my antibody-factory of a body, and the potential implications for fetal success and whether we’d have a typical child – after taking on that burden, shedding thousands of tears about the decision because it meant so much to us make sure we did everything in our power to ensure our child a healthy, happy life – a child who would know that we had processed and analyzed and dissected to death the circumstances through which s/he joined our family, and that s/he was loved beyond measure for years prior his/her existence – we could not, in our gut, care so much for our children’s health, happiness, and well-being only to adopt in a climate where corruption was alleged and, in our estimation, probably happening. We could not plan to adopt from Viet Nam in the climate that was last fall. I’m so, so, so thankful that we didn’t.

My heart aches for those PAPs who are stuck in this. One of the things I think about (among so many other things, as you will see) is the financial cost of an adoption – it typically runs between $20K – upwards of $45K – which is well beyond our entire life’s savings. We’d be relying on the $11K adoption tax credit, which is only granted for *completed* adoptions. For families like us, a failed Viet Nam adoption might potentially cost them their ability to have a family. I think about that and, honestly, weep.

Lest you think I am only thinking of PAPs, oh no, I am feeling sick for birthparents, chlidren, APs, too. There is a woman on one of the lists (and I believe her story is also detailed in the Embassy report) whose special needs baby was reclaimed from the orphanage by her biological parents in Viet Nam. The baby needs surgery to save his/her sight (I don’t know if this child is a girl or boy), and the birthparents are desperately poor and illiterate. The illiteracy is only relevant because when the mother birthed the baby, an orphanage worker came to the hospital and told the parents that they owed a huge sum of money in hospital bills, and if they couldn’t pay the bill, they could not have their baby. Horrified, the parents did not know what to do. The orphanage worker offered to get them out of debt if they just signed “this form” – a form they could not read; a form that stated they were relinquishing their child for international adoption.

These parents had no idea their child was destined for the US.

In every fiber of my body, I feel sick about this story. The agency was a reputable, ethical agency in Viet Nam; it was not an agency that paid a “finders fee” per baby (there are those in Viet Nam, too, and as an aside, for the life of me I do not know why we cannot find out who these agencies are so their management can be punished for a very, very, very long time). The baby was not a healthy baby; it was a *special needs* baby, which isn’t even that sought-after (most families want AYAP – as young as possible – infant girls). This story is probably not an anomaly. There are probably other birthparents out there that thought their only choice was to either pay a sum of money worth 2 years of wages or relinquish their child to an orphanage. There are children out there who have parents that did not want to relinquish them. There are adoptive parents out there who never believed in a million years that their child arrived at the orphanage under such circumstances.

My gut feeling is that this is not a majority of adoptions. But given the range of “irregularities” detailed in the report, it sounds like an awful lot of children come into adoption under awfully suspicious circumstances. And certainly, this one story highlights why Viet Nam adoption has more major problems than I could have even fathomed.

See, although there were naysayers in the adoption community (stating that paperwork irregularities were “mistakes” because there was just too much paper; stating that of COURSE a graveyard could have 10 babies “abandoned” legitimately and how DARE anyone say that those babies might have otherwise ended up in an orphanage (aka coerced); stating that the reason the relinquishment (known parents relinquish baby at care center) vs. abandonment (no known parents) rate had flip-flopped in many regions was the “social stigma” of being pregnant. Yes, there’s a stigma, but it’s not a *new* stigma. These arguments make. no. sense.

I was not one of these people. Oh, no, I was someone who argued that there *could* be corruption. What the U.S. Embassy was saying sounded exactly like what was happening before the *last* shut down (in 2003ish). We had friends who were affected by the corruption in the adoption process then, and hearing their story made me very reluctant to challenge what the Embassy’s fall 2007 warnings. My sense was that maybe, just maybe, women were being compensated for their babies (very illegal) but that these women did not see that they had any choice; they were pregnant, had many other children, were very very poor and the sum offered for a child was a way to keep their other children. I assumed that the high rate of abandonments was because there were a lot of women in this situation. I wasn’t comfortable with it – DB and I said that if we ever adopted from Viet Nam, we’d happily wait, and wait, and wait for a relinquished child so we could be sure to know who his/her birthparents were, and could be sure that they knew this child was leaving Viet Nam – but I thought that was what happened.

Yeah, that’s what is happening, but there’s a whole lot more, too.

So when my theory was in place, we assumed that adoptions would end in September, but that they’d be renegotiated, and when Vietnam opened back up, we’d try to adopt from there at that point. I’ve worked for 4 months IN Vietnam (ok, I know 4 months isn’t long, but it’s longer than I’ve worked in, say, Kazakhstan. Or Ethiopia. Or China. Or pretty much most places). DB was in Quantico at training at the time (we were engaged when I was in Ha Noi that summer) so we took a vacation there to visit the country and get a little more acquainted with it so we’d know what it was like, sans travelling for a child. As I’ve said before, understanding our adopted children’s (yeah, we plan to adopt more than one – again, as I’ve said, we have these negotiations and I consistently lose, but it’s definitely more than 1 child at this point) country is critically important to us.

We have a Rosetta Stone Vietnamese program so we could learn the language. I absolutely adore Vietnamese, and I took to learning it very, very, very quickly (much faster than I ever could learn French, I must say, and I took that for 10 years). I can bargain, give directions, understand when I am being mocked, understand when I am being complimented (the most frequent one I heard is “You can’t be American – you’re not FAT!”), and tell people to get the heck away from me (yes, I am culturally sensitive, but I was also alone and there were many, many men who would follow me down the street for various reasons. It was highly effective to say “no” politely, “no” meanly, and then “please get away from me” more meanly, and, if necessary, “GET. AWAY. FROM. ME. NOW” in the event of true stalker emergency). Granted, some of those skills would be wholly useless in an adoption environment (holy moly, I’d hope so) but they speak to a broader theme: I LOVE Vietnam, I want to raise my family returning many, many, many, many times to Vietnam, I love Vietnam’s children and families, I wanted – and I imparted to DB a desire for – Vietnamese children. For us to raise and love and care for and cherish.

Now, I’m just not sure it will ever open up. And I’m really sad.

We’ll still donate money to causes in Viet Nam, but part of me thinks we need to move on. I started looking at a few other countries, and I guess we’ll have to see where our hearts take us. But I do feel so, so, so, so sad.

So that’s the scoop. I’m going to stop here and write a new post on…my car. Because it’s funny, and man, this blog needs funny.

Much love,