Flanked by my Mom and one of my best friends (who also happens to be an adoptive Mom), I had the good fortune of attending the screening of “STUCK” last night.  (Don’t know it?  See the trailer at www.bothendsburning.org).  Our conversation afterward was interesting, charged, and thought-provoking.  Because I’m indulging myself as an advocate for “my kids” and their parents, I have a few things to say:

1)  The plight of children across the world who have been orphaned is enough to make me want to throw myself on the ground and sob.  There must be a way for us to do better by “our” children.

2)  I agree.  A loving, safe family should be every child’s birthright.  There is no greater tragedy on earth than that what should be, isn’t.

3)  Adoption alone will not right this wrong.  Long after an adoption is finalized, children must be found.  And sometimes, parents must find their child again, and again, and again to communicate, “I love you.  I see you.  We belong to each other.”

That third point was missed at the screening last night.  I mean, I get it.  Both Ends Burning is highlighting one very important layer of the complexities of adoptions:  There are children stuck in orphanages around the world and families who are wanting to welcome these children who are stuck in the bureaucracy of policy and procedure.  Intended to help, some of the Hague Treaty may have gone to further complicating the international adoption process instead of streamlining it.  Highlighting these breakdowns in the system is the place along the river where Both Ends Burning stands to try and help.  I happen to have my helping place downriver, where I try to help families after they come home.  So, naturally, I get really nervous whenever someone upriver even begins to hint that “rescuing a child” from life in an orphanage is all that’s required.  It goes to the old adoption myth that “Love is enough.”  (And it’s another conversation entirely, but I’ve got plenty to say on the idea of “rescue” as well.)

Don’t get me wrong.  Love is necessary.  Love is foundational.  Love is required to be able to begin to face the giants sometimes sleeping in the hearts of these children.  Love is fuel for working with.

Heartbroken as I watched these images swim across the screen last night, on the inside, the skeptic was busy and loud.  ”Where are the families who worked this hard to complete an adoption who have a harder truth to tell?  Where are the families who come home and say, ‘I don’t regret it, but parenting a child with a trauma history is harder than I thought it would be… I need help.’  Where are the families who wonder in the privacy and dark of their bedrooms whether their decision to adopt was the right one, because once home, the pain has been overwhelming and depleting?”

The Executive Producer of the film talked about where “Both Ends Burning” came from.  He talked about the children stuck in orphanages at one end and the parents stuck in paperwork at the other end… Both ends burning, both ends broken.  Were I able, I’d slide the highlight further down the timeline.  Children without families at one end.  On the other end, I’d highlight the crisis that is families with good intentions, but ill-equipped, suffering, and in need of education, support, creativity, and resources for helping their children heal.

Children out of orphanages more quickly, efficiently, and humanely?  Pass the petition.  I’ll sign.  Institutions and temporary care are not where children belong.  The very first step is out of an orphanage and into a situation where a child has a parent to claim.  But the only way to take that first step with wisdom is to recognize that these same parents need preparation for the work ahead that could help their child heal.  And parents need support from a community who understands the complexities of building a family by adoption.

Maybe you could convince me Love is enough…  but I haven’t met one human yet who’s capable of being loving around the clock, especially in the face of significant challenges.  So, these children need to find their way into families whose mantra is, “What I lack in love, I make up for with skill, education, support, and creativity.”  When children come home, I want them to have the comfort of parents who are really ready.

It’s a complicated problem.  I’m sure the solutions will be complicated, too.  I’m grateful to the crew behind “STUCK” for bringing these little ones, lost in the shuffle, to the fore.  But let us not forget the close second – the people with hands that were raised to say, “Yes. Come live with me.  I’ll love you,” the people with hands that will do the holding in the middle of the night and feeding and changing, and people with the hands that may be rubbed raw in the repeated attempts to massage a healing salve into the soul of their young one.

So, I don’t know…  All I can think right now is this:  Find a person who has those hands… and hold one of them.  Plenty of folks, if they could, would send smoke signals that help is needed, showing us that end is burning, too.

Yours in Love, Light, & Relationship,


Jen Winkelmann