“I'm a size 2!” Every time I hear that commercial, I invariably prick up my ears. That could be me, I think. I could make Kirstie Alley and Jenny Craig proud. I could eat at Subway every day and be featured in commercials. I could have buns of steel. By purchasing the meal plan, the fat-busting herbal supplements, the excercise machine, that could be me prancing around in a bikini, showing off my flat stomach and toned arms. Each of these 30-second reveries is dissolved by the fine print at the end of the ad, “Results not typical.”
I once had a brief moment of results-not-typical fame. A dozen years ago, I took a preparation course to improve my math scores on my second GMAT attempt. My scores were impressive enough to get me into the business school of my choice, 99th percentile on the verbal test and 93rd percentile overall. I qualified for B-school or, alternatively, a job teaching the prep course.
The adoption business is not obligated to the same truth-in-advertising legal minutia as the diet business. There is no such caveat on the brochures and websites which show photographs of adorable “waiting” children.
A common feature of adoption agency promotion is the informational meeting. There are maps and videos and payment schedules, of course. But the highlight of these gatherings is show-and-tell portion featuring newly-returned parents and their darling children. Chinese girls snuggle in their father's arms, while he describes the ease and alacrity of the process, the help and support of the agency staff. Mothers holding blonde Russian boys tell how quickly little Sergei, Boris or Igor learned English, his smooth transition into second grade, his Cub Scout merit badges and gymnastics awards.
With a decade of hindsight, I have realized that these people are the size 2s, the Subway Jareds of the adoption world. These families are the great success stories. Theirs are the children featured in the agency’s glossy brochures. Although the foreign adoption industry does not care to advertise it, there are many more families like ours. The truth: the chance of getting a healthy, bright, well-adjusted child through foreign adoption like those at the meeting, is slim indeed.
Back to the video montage in the hotel conference room. There is Dmitri playing with the family dog, then Natasha and Marina at their first communion. Here are three girls from the same Chinese orphanage playing together in the California surf. The crawl along the bottom of the screen does not say, “Results not typical” but it probably should.