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March 2005

By Kymberlie Adams Matthews

This past June, I turned 30. Yikes, did I really just share that? Aside from the little wrinkles that have begun sprouting from the corners of my eyes and the need for more sleep, I have begun to feel the tick-tock of my biological clock. For years, I swore up and down that I would never want to be a mom. It just wasn’t for me. It’s funny how our outlook on things can change as we get older. The truth is, I do want to be a parent.

The eldest of three sisters, all of us best friends, and the offspring of two incredible parents, I couldn’t have asked for a better family. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t the Brady Bunch by any stretch of the imagination. But as I reflect back on my childhood, the good times and the bad—from building tree forts to doing dreaded chores, from family vacations to those teen battles of will with my folks—I realize that I want to experience that with a child of my own one day. A child that I will love, teach, protect and discipline. A child who will also no doubt be given birth to by another woman.

Naturally part of the tick-tocking is the desire to give birth. What is it like to be pregnant? Will I have morning sickness? Crave pickles with my soy ice cream? But for me these are questions that will go unanswered. And the desire to actually give birth will be tucked away with the desire for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Phish-food ice cream. Being a vegan feminist, I simply can’t justify ever giving birth.

My reasons are really quite simple. Of course I can whip together a plethora of startling statistics regarding world overpopulation—that we are growing by 76 million people a year. Or that in the time it takes to you to read this article, 3,500 human lives will be added to our planet and at least one entire species of animal or plant life will be lost. Issues of human over-consumption, loss of land, and the political climate also make my list. But chances are you already know all about them.

But what if I told you that I equate adopting children from an orphanage to adopting animals from a shelter? That I simply won’t support a dog breeder and I won’t breed myself. That each year approximately eight million cats and dogs enter the shelter system and more than half are killed. And to date, 532,000 children are in the foster care system in America alone—nearly double that of 1987. While here in NYC, 25,000 kids spend their lives without ever knowing what it feels like to have a parent—a mom, a dad, two moms, two dads.

Adopt from your local shelter! Stop pet overpopulation! Don’t go to a breeder! Spay and neuter your pets! Yes, yes, yes. Lord knows those mantras converted me, just ask that bow-legged cat of mine. But as activists, we should also extend that way of thinking to include our human families. As advocates our breadth of compassion can seem endless, as we march down the streets of NYC pledging allegiance to ending the war, rescuing three-legged dogs from alleyways, supporting fair trade, and dropping quarters in every empty coffee cup we see. But in many of us there is still this need—a deep seeded instinct to reproduce. I can’t help but be convinced that breeding should be something we add to our piles of no-no’s and shouldn’ts. I mean would it really matter if your daughter won’t have your eyes, or grandmas’ curly locks? Or that your son won’t pass on the family dimples? Are genes really that important, especially when thousands of little lives are waiting to be rescued? Children of every race, creed, age, are waiting for a home.

I’ve been told I’m too sensitive about such things. But if you have ever ventured onto—a website dedicated to posting bios and photos of animals looking for homes—then you may be familiar with the list of choices you make pertaining to the breed, color, and age of the companion animal you are looking to adopt. In a twisted parallel you find a similar selection of traits on many child adoption sites including the NYC Children’s Social Services web page. Simply type in your desired characteristics and within seconds, pages full of gap-toothed grins, shy eyes and endearing faces pop up. Most are school-aged or in a sibling group that needs to stay together. Many have emotional disabilities stemming from a life without love; others have physical, mental or developmental disabilities. But doesn’t that make them more special? And you more the perfect match as a parent?

Here in America lawsuits are filed on behalf of these children who suffer abuse and neglect in the foster care system, while many others become stuck in a continuous foster care rut, being transferred from placement to placement, never finding a home. So many of these little beings suffer from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, the greater part of the adult prison population was once in foster care. And while the federal government has established measures to protect children and find safe, permanent homes for them, not one state has fully complied—the U.S. places last among developed nations in the way it handles every aspect of the foster care system.

It’s not a matter of money either. The costs of adopting do vary by the type of adoption, ranging from zero with state adoptions to over $30,000 with private or independent adoptions. And while families often pay extremely high fees to adopt infants (especially white), adopting a waiting child is one way to reduce the cost. A waiting child is simply that—a child already born and waiting to be adopted. If a family plans to adopt a waiting child who is in foster care, a public agency in the family’s county or state will often complete the adoption process at no cost. There is also the option of foster adoption. Like the adoption of a waiting child, foster adoption will involve few, if any, costs. Every month, to cover the cost of caring for the child, you will receive a check and child medical assistance. If you decide to adopt that child, you will still continue to receive financial and medical support.

I am rather inclined to believe that most children are born with gentle dispositions, but I am also rather convinced that being taught compassion and empathy from early in life shapes personality. Open-minded folks have so much to offer children—that it’s never okay to hurt or kill a living thing, that recycling helps clean the earth, that it’s okay to be different—children only seek to grow in the world they know. Many of us think outside the box. We shop at thrift stores, buy used books, and can’t get enough of sites such as; we prefer to work in non-profit fields and rather take in the old than generate the new. We take positions on so many rights over wrongs, and tend to see the world without the shades drawn. So when the tick-tock begins its time-honored beat, shouldn’t we do the right thing and adopt a child?

For more information on adopting a child visit, and in NYC visit



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