Tracy Clemenger, the co-author of the article, “Canada’s 30,000 Adoptable Children in a Labyrinth of Policy and Social Issues” in the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Faith Today magazine, is the parent of an adopted child. She and her husband, Bruce, “saw it as a natural expression of what it means to be a Christian,” she told The Interim. They used the public adoption process to find a child who was not an infant, as they knew that there were many couples who wanted to adopt infants. They read about the profile of an ideal parent and went through the necessary training, courses, and steps to adopt. According to Clemenger, “many people are afraid of being judged” during agency investigation of the family, even though all the organization wants is to match the child happily with a suitable family.
It is important to stop seeing “adoption as solely a private issue… (It is) a social issue,” Clemenger said. Adoption actually “measures how we are faring as a society” and is “the tip of the iceberg of issues.” Specifically, it shows “someone cared enough to make a call” and provide a home for an abandoned child.
There are 30,000 children in Canada who cannot find parents. This is due to both lack of awareness and problems within the adoption system. The Canadian system can be described as “a patchwork of agencies by region” and to remedy systemic problems, Clemenger proposes national coordination of the various agencies to a federal committee as well as an immediate campaign for national awareness.
There is an “increasing demand for protection for children in Canada with barely any resources” to raise awareness about Canada’s waiting children she said. Furthermore, most Canadians assume that these children suffer extreme abuse and neglect, and there is confusion about what exactly it means when an adoptable child is classified as “at risk.” She said the public needs to be educated about these issues.
Another problem contributing to the shortfall in adopting families is that there is a “lack” and “demise of parenting skills” as many citizens make choices about their future that does not put parenting at a top priority.
No one group is to blame for the lack of adoptive parents. “It’s a general blindness… the issue that’s hiding in plain view,” said Clemenger. She is confident that once people are aware of it, they will respond. While the government needs to facilitate the adoption process, old stereotypes about adoption must also be overturned. To a large extent, these are presented in children’s stories. While “all children are made in the image of God,” this message is not present in most narratives, where parentless children are depicted as “less than human…lacking different abilities (to contribute to society)… proscribed to be a social deviance.” The Church, then, has a large role to play “in changing hearts and minds” and preaching doctrines that get people to respond to the dignity and worth of children in need of loving homes.
There is also much the media can do in changing minds about adoption. Right now, adoptive families are “pejoratively held up” as examples in the media and adoption is viewed “through a pathological lens.” Media outlets “sensationalize” the adoption history of the child without discussing the blessings a child experiences in his or her adoptive family. To encourage adoption, the media should “profile what the issues are in child welfare” and “bust some of the myths” surrounding adoption, outline “what adoption means (when it is) done well,” and report the “child’s lived experience versus what (the media) thinks they’re living.”
There are many things people can do to help with adoption. To start, they should read up on the issue to understand it. They may decide to adopt themselves. If not, it is possible to participate in adoption care advocacy. Churches and businesses may put up posters promoting adoption. Businesses could also become more family-friendly and churches could run more active campaigns to encourage parishioners to adopt or to raise awareness. People can even “start talking differently” about it to make the process more accepted and embraced in daily life.
Adoption, after all, is important because helping these children in need is simply “making the world a better place for us all.”