Why is an orphan an orphan? This is a question I never asked back in the day. An orphan is someone who has no parents and no family to take them in, right? The only other children up for adoption are babies born to 16 year old girls who aren't ready to be mothers, right?
It's just not that simple. It's not pretty. It's painful.
Some "orphans" are truly parentless. Why are they parentless? Rarely it is due to a car accident or something like that which comes to your mind. Most parentless children are orphaned due to preventable causes like HIV or malaria.
Some "orphans" have parents whose parental rights have been terminated. This is not very common, especially when you are looking at adoption in sub-Saharan Africa.
Some "orphans" have parents who abandon them. They leave them for all of the possible reasons imaginable. Perhaps they hope that their child will have a better chance if abandoned and put up for adoption. Perhaps they are selfish. In these cases it is often unknown.
Some "orphans" are babies that we normally don't call "orphans". They are what you first picture when you hear the word "adoption". They are infants, relinquished at birth to a couple just bursting with joy at opportunity to take this baby home, give this baby their family name, and call them "my son" or "my daughter".
Some "orphans" have parents who love them dearly. The children know and love their parents. So why on earth would a parent part with their beloved children? Because they must. Because they love their children too much to risk their children's lives and well being for the dear sweetness of keeping their family together. Can you imagine being stricken with such poverty that you believe your child is actually better off going through the trauma of being placed in an orphanage and then entrusted to a stranger to raise as their own? Is it right that a parent should have to give up a child out of poverty? How is that fair to the parents or children? If it comes to be that my children come from this scenario, how will I feel watching my children grieve the loss of their birth family knowing that this was all caused by a lack of money?
Why do I share this with you? I guess I am just processing this myself. I am trying to come to terms with the last scenario. This process has brought me to face questions of global equality.
For 13 years now I have been wanting to adopt and yet I am learning that adoption always comes with trauma and pain. Any reason that causes a child to be separated from his or her parents is traumatic, even if given up at birth. Adoption is blessed by God but that doesn't mean it isn't without its scares.