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File photo of Sherin Matthews. The writer says: Our Indian culture is a success-driven culture and there’s no room for failure. I know the stress it has put on us as an Indian American adoptive family. (family photo/Richardson Police Dept.)

Everyone has their take on and are actively talking about the Sherin Matthews case. I am a 19-year veteran adoptive parent of Indian origin, now an Indian American and U.S. citizen, and want to share some thoughts with you. I share our experiences hoping that you will begin advocating for all Indian adoptive families, but at this time particularly for adoptive families who may need support and encouragement, through your many media outlets and opportunities.

Yes, we need to be angry about the crime committed against a precious little girl and we do need to go all out to fight injustice and put strong laws in place to prevent crimes against children as well as to prevent child trafficking. But, banning international adoption is NOT the answer. I know this well growing up in India as well as through my children. Also, shouldn’t we be equally angry every time bio parents risk their children’s lives through abuse, giving them up or killing them? India is home to millions of orphans who have not been valued and are brutalized or even killed with nobody protecting them. We should be angry in every case because life is so very precious – not just angry in this case.

Additionally, what I am not hearing at all in all this angry dialogue is how difficult it often is for Indian families who adopt Indian children. I have two older adopted children from India – one was adopted at 6 years and the other at 10 months. They both needed families – nobody wanted my son because he had “bad karma” as he had seen his mother die by setting herself on fire, and our daughter was given up as she was a girl.

The agencies were sincere and really cared for our kids 20 years ago – we hardly paid anything – basic fees and our travel (both adoptions happened within 6 months of each other). Our son came with severe trauma and could not function “normally” as a 6-year-old. We faced tremendous pressure, judgment, condemnation from the Indian family, friends and community. People would talk behind our backs and comment on how worthless “orphans” were and that is why none of them would take such kids into their families. We were told that our son would amount to nothing because he can never be like normal bio kids. Over the years, we have been kept out of groups and often not been invited to homes. Even my in-laws have subtly turned away from our kids over the 19 years. Many in our family disagreed with our parenting and walked away.

Our Indian culture is a success-driven culture and there’s no room for failure. I know the stress it has put on us as an Indian adoptive family. Everyone around us is always raving about their kids’ successes in spelling bees and science competitions, SAT scores and Ivy Leagues, becoming IT people or doctors, CEOs and leadership. There is also a “moral code” that silently is the bar and often adoptive kids fall below that. Any child who falls behind these is deemed to have bad genes or bad parents.

The pressure is huge and often unnoticed by the world. We went through so much stress as we brought our kids up and we had very minimal support. There was a deep-set fear to even say we were struggling as we would only be misunderstood and condemned by our fellow Indians. And, living in the U.S. made it extremely hard as we were the minority.

We started sharing our story a few years ago simply to highlight the suffering that can accompany an adoption as, after all, adoption is built on tragedy and deep loss for our children. It took a lot of surrender to God to help us navigate through this confusion. Don’t get me wrong, we are proud of the fact that so many Indian Americans are climbing the ladder in this land of opportunity, but we are sad and ashamed to say that we are not a culture of grace for those who may be struggling.

Indian families who adopt need unconditional support. We need to educate the Indian community and the larger community to understand the nuances of adoption. We need not throw the baby out with the bath water, which is stop adoption – instead, we need to make changes in the laws, but also the larger community needs to provide a lot of support for those who do adopt. My husband and I absolutely love our children – we would do much for them. But, that does not take away from how hard the journey has been. I have wept many, many times over the 19 years at how difficult the journey has been and how isolated we felt. It isn’t easy being an Indian adoptive parent.

I recently talked to Nina Naik, a veteran social worker who is connected to WACAP, and she said that there is an extremely high disruption rate in adoptions by Indian families. I am not surprised. Indians rarely adopt as genetics plays a huge role, and Indians normally do not accept any type of special needs. Failure is not an option. Obviously, the families who do adopt are under a lot of stress and disruption will happen. All those years, we learned not to show our struggles for fear of judgment. We were told by our Indian family and friends either verbally or non-verbally that we had foolishly stepped into this boat, so it’s our problem! We thank God for the rare few who did support us and most of all the grace of God that brought us through.

We as a family speak out loudly just to educate our Indian community and the larger community we live in. Many kids need families in India – adoption is a beautiful solution. Agencies need to stop charging such huge amounts – that is wrong. Family and friends need to learn to change their basic cultural mindsets and show unconditional love and care. Adoption done right is a beautiful thing.

Our children are older now and though the struggle of loss of their first families and ostracization from the Indian community is real, they have learned to trust God and show gratitude for their lives. They speak out too as change needs to happen. May we join hands with love and not bitterness as adoptees, adoptive parents, agencies, social workers, law makers and the Indian community to make life better for the millions of vulnerable children of India!

Here is my son sharing a snippet of our family’s story: https://vimeo.com/158961837

He is a national speaker for both adoption and education causes. We are all national conference speakers.

Vanita Thomas

Via E-mail

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