Discord, slander, gossip: the ugly side of the Uganda adoption community
Over the last few weeks, I went to the Orphan Summit in California and then eventually to Uganda to do research for the book I am writing. In both of these places, I had the opportunity to visit and interview people who are passionate about orphans and adoption in Uganda.
In conversation after conversation, however, I witnessed something ugly.
Discord, slander, gossip.
In conversation after conversation, someone had something ugly to say about someone else. Over a couple of days in Uganda, I felt like I was caught in this crazy mess of everyone tearing everyone else down.
My heart in writing this post is not to point out what any one person is doing wrong, but rather to ask why we – the community of families who are passionate about adoption and orphans in Uganda – are so critical and bitter? Why do we always assume the worst? Why are we so quick to point out the faults in others? Or to take credit where it is not due?
I refuse to do or say anything in this post that will make the gossip mill spin. But seriously, assuming the worst about others who care passionately about orphans in Uganda is not going to be helpful. As my daddy always said, when you assume you make an ass out of u and me. Sorry to be a bit profane. But seriously...
For those of you who are Christians, this is especially important. The world is watching. Literally. Some families in the Uganda adoption community are not Christians and believe me when I say that they are disgusted with what they see. Nothing about Christians gossiping, slandering and tearing one another down is attractive to non-Christians.
This post is not pointed at any one person. I think we are all complicit. Right here, right now I want to confess that at times, I have been critical and bitter. I have assumed the worst about situations or people. I have not guarded my words carefully enough. I have been judgmental and just plain unkind. I am sorry. This is public repentance. I ask for your forgiveness.
I also want to challenge you to search your heart. The gossip, slander, discord, lies and accusations are just plain ugly. Sinful. And wrong. I’m begging you to consider apologizing to people you may have hurt. If you have concerns about a family, ministry, agency or anyone else involved in adoptions or orphan care in Uganda, deal with it directly. Refuse to participate in the rumor mill.
Do you know what is crazy? Pretty much everyone I met with over the last few weeks wants the same thing.
We all care about orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda. We all agree that children need families. We all agree that institutions are harmful to children. We all want to see more children adopted by loving families in Uganda. We all believe international adoption is the best choice for children who truly need it.
We may disagree on how to get there, but we’re headed in the same direction.
So why are we treating each other like enemies? We aren’t we working together for reform?
Why aren’t we doing everything we can to:
Support vulnerable mothers and families so that children are not orphaned
Encourage more Ugandan families to adopt
End corrupt adoption practices, such as creating false documents, bribing authorities or “finding” children for adoption in slums or villages
Make sure no child is placed in an orphanage or for adoption without a careful investigations into what is best for the child
To make orphanages better for the kids who have no other choice
To get kids out of orphanages whenever possible
Encourage the officials, both in the Ugandan government and at the US Embassy, to do their jobs carefully, knowing that these people are responsible for protecting vulnerable children
Encourage international adoption for children who cannot be placed domestically
These things are not in conflict. Children need families. Period. It is unacceptable to take children from poor families and to make them look like orphans because we have what my friend calls “brown-baby-itis”. But it is also unacceptable to deny a true orphan the opportunity to have a family because of a philosophy that international adoption should be the last resort.
Somewhere between these extremes we have a lot of common ground, where we can work together for the good of the children and families in Uganda. Until there are thousands of families in Uganda lining up to adopt, there will be a need for international adoption. This need is primarily for families who can adopt older, HIV positive and special needs children. So let’s do everything we can to support vulnerable families, to encourage domestic adoption and to encourage international adoption.
Let’s stop fighting with one another.
Let’s start fighting together.
We can accomplish so much more if we fight together than if we tear one another down. Some of us may be called to adopt. Others to advocate. Some may be called to support vulnerable families. Others to encouraging resettlement. Some to reforming orphanages. Others to encouraging domestic adoption in Uganda. Some to fighting injustice and poverty. Others to providing access to health care. None of us are called to gossip, slander or discord. We are not called to tear one another town. We are all called to tell the truth, but we can do this with wisdom, love, discretion.
Please, please share this with other families involved in the Uganda adoption community. My hope is that together we can change so that we can work together for the good of orphans and vulnerable families in Uganda.