Meet Sarah Salmon! Sarah and her husband have two daughters, ages four and five, whom they adopted from Cambodia as babies. They are Australians currently living in Singapore after 12 years in other Asian countries; Sarah tells me that “We are fortunate that we can take our daughters back to Cambodia every year to visit their birth families.”
1. How did you choose adoption over a gestational surrogate or other ART solutions? I see from your blog that you did use some ART, but not how that was resolved.
My husband and I did a couple of rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI). We were told by my gynaecologist that it was a ‘non-invasive’ treatment, but the follicle scans and the painful insemination felt very invasive to me. Anyone who has undergone any form of ART knows how emotionally stressful it is, and I did not want to prolong the stress any longer, so my husband and I decided to forgo the gynaecologist’s recommendation to undergo IVF and adopt a child instead. We had been living in India for a few years at the time, and we had seen the number of orphaned and abandoned children across the country who needed loving families. It felt like a better choice to give a child a loving home, rather than trying month after month to conceive a biological child.
2. What about the Cambodian program appealed to you?
My husband and I tried to adopt from India, as we had been living in Bangalore for a few years, but Australian government policy did not allow us to adopt from India as expats. Therefore, we needed to find a country that would be approved by the Australian government. We had been living in Asia for several years (residing in South Korea before we relocated to India), so Asia felt like a natural fit for us. At the time, Cambodia was a relatively easy country to adopt from.
3. You mention that you make yearly visits to Cambodia: What are those like? How do you think your daughters understand them?
My husband and I take our two adopted daughters back to Cambodia every year to visit their birth families, as we want them to retain a connection to their birth country, culture, and families. The girls are only 4 & 6 years of age, so they do not fully understand what it all means yet (e.g. my youngest daughter got confused between her orphanage and her birth village when we were there last month). But we hope that as the years go on, they are able to identify with Cambodia and their backgrounds so that they can develop a strong sense of identity. My eldest daughter, due to her age, gets more out of the trips to Cambodia than my youngest daughter. She always has questions prepared before we visit her birth family. The visits to my daughter’s birth villages are always very emotional – both happy and sad.
4. Are you done building your family, or do you plan to adopt again, or do you have other plans?
I have no intention to have any more children, adopted or biological. I am extremely content with my current family.
5. Have there been any legal or logistical headaches involved in adopting children without their (or your) residing in your home country? Any tips for other families who might go through that process?
There were plenty of legal and logistical headaches adopting both my daughters. The Australian government did not make it very easy for us to adopt as expats living outside of our home country, and I found the government staff to be unsupportive and unhelpful. We were basically left to fend for ourselves; we had to find a country to adopt from that fitted the Australian government criteria; we had to research the legalities ourselves; and we had to take the risk of adopting a child to whom the Australian government might not grant citizenship to. Of course, we then had to navigate our way through the Cambodian government process, as well as the Indian government regulations for our daughters to return to live in India with us. My husband and I hired a lawyer in Cambodia to ensure our daughters’ backgrounds checked out (unfortunately there is a history of child trafficking in Cambodia). We also conducted full medicals on our daughters to ensure they would pass the Australian government medical examination. The whole process of adoption from beginning to end involved jumping over many hurdles, and if it wasn’t for the advice from an Australian expat I found via an adoption Yahoo group, I would probably still be wading through the murky waters of adoption. So, my tip for those starting the adoption process is to ready yourself with patience, and to reach out to the adoptive community for advice and support.
Many thanks to Sarah for the chance to hear her story—if you’d like to hear more (or read her questions and my answers), check out her blog at www.sarahpsalmon.com