Before we embarked on this adoption journey, we thought that the greatest hurdle was to convince ourselves that the child is ours. After all, there is no biological connection. But, you know what? That’s just hogwash – the moment we carried him in our arms, he is ours. In fact, in the short time span of 4 months, we have almost forgotten that he was adopted. Amazing isn’t it? All these worries about whether we can love the child as our own just dissipate into thin air. In every sense of the word, we feel it, we know it that he is very much our son…without a shadow of a doubt.
Trouble is, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to think so. Occasionally, we do get reminded that he is, well, different.
1. Maternity / Paternity Leave:
Under normal circumstances (you mean his birth is not ‘normal?’), The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) accords 4 months immediate maternity leave to a working Mother and 1 week paternity leave to the Father. For adoption, the adoptive Mom is only entitled to a maximum 1 month’s leave and the Father 1 week. We all know that during the initial days of welcoming a baby home, time is needed to set routines and ease the baby into the family. All new parents (be it biological or adoptive) would testify that this is a very trying period as the baby wakes up multiple times during the night to be fed, burped and lulled back to sleep. Add to that colicky moments and sleep deprivation – which hit both biological and adoptive parents alike so why the discrepancy?
To make matters worse,
2. Granting of Adoption Leave only Months (Many Months) Later…
Yes, not only is the adoption leave significantly shorter for adoptive parents, we have to wait longer to be granted the leave. At the time of writing this post, AJ is turning 4 months old yet we have not been able to apply for adoption leave because of the red tape involved. The law stipulates that “Adoptive mothers who meet the eligibility criteria can start to consume their adoption leave from the date of Court Application (for local child) or issuance of in-principle approval for Dependent’s Pass (for foreign child)”. This denies adoptive parents of the precious window period where the leave is most needed to settle the child when he/she first arrived.
In reality, the adoption leave application will be frowned upon unless the legal paperwork is done which could take anything from 6 to 9 months (don’t get me started on the amount of documents we need to produce to accompany the adoption leave application or the tedious Home Study Report prospective couples undergo before even deemed eligible to adopt). These red tapes add to the challenge of carving dedicated time and space to bond with the baby, settle him into his new routines and help other members in the family (e.g. the older sibling) adapt to the new baby.
Which makes me wonder…how about the biological mother? The irony would be that SHE is enjoying the 4 months maternity leave while the adoptive parents of her child have to wait much much longer while caring for the newborn and juggling work simultaneously.
3. Medical Coverage (or lack of)…
As a child waiting for his adoption to be legalised in the Court, AJ is not able to be covered under any form of insurance. We had sought the advice of many insurers only to be turned away as it was deemed too administratively ‘complex’ and deviates from the ‘norm’. We were advised to wait till his legal paperwork is done before we are allowed to purchase insurance for him. So in the past 4 months, all his medical checks, blood tests, immunizations were paid in cold, hard cash (nope, not even Medisave). Needless to say, since he is still considered ‘nobody’s child’, our employers were unable to accord him any dependent’s benefits for his doctor visits (and if touch wood, hospitalization). We just have to pray doubly hard he remains healthy before he becomes legally ours.
4. The Hamper.
In our respective workplaces, there were no less than 5-6 other colleagues whose babies were born in same month as AJ (or after). The births of their children were quickly followed by rounds of congratulatory emails from the bosses and colleagues. Sadly though, when we informed our bosses of our adoption, there was no congratulatory notes, no hampers, no bouquets – as if adoption is a lesser reason for rejoicing. Honestly, we don’t need the hampers (or gifts) but our baby needs to be acknowledged. Doesn’t every child deserve to be welcomed? While I can understand employers may be tied down by red tape and unable to grant immediate adoption leave, surely, hampers and emails don’t need to be governed by policies right?
5. Then, there are these…
Then, there are those that don’t need red tape of any sort. Over the weekend, we met a senior couple (in their ‘50s) who was visiting our cell group. We have been open to our church friends about AJ’s adoption and grateful for their love and prayers. Imagine our shock when the elderly lady cornered us and started probing us with some very intrusive questions about AJ’s biological parentage and details of our adoption process etc. etc., right in our faces.
An adopted child is a normal child who was born the normal way to a normal mother and therefore in every sense of the word, normal. He deserves the same privilege and acknowledgement as a normal child. In fact, because he was given up for adoption, he deserves more than what a normal child receives – for the simple fact that when he grows up, he has to face a harsh reality most children don’t – the plight that he was being given up at birth is no fault of his.
The adopted child deserves to be granted the same amount of leave (right from his birth) for his adoptive parents to settle his routines and to bond with him and to make multiple trips to the lawyers’ office and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) for the adoption interviews and to sort out the paperwork. These leave should be granted in-lieu of the eventual completion of the legal process, which takes months. While the process can wait and can be tweaked, the social-emotional needs and welfare of a child can’t.
Employers, friends and family members should accord adoptive families the same treatment, respect and courtesy as with families who are formed ‘normally’.
After all, isn’t an adopted child a ‘normal’ child? If yes, then dispense away with the double standards and be a truly inclusive first-world society we always pride ourselves to be.