When we tell people we have adopted, or when we used to tell them we were adopting, the usual question was some variant of “Where are they from?” It has gotten to the point where we now simply smile and say “Carlisle”. (Carlisle is the county seat of Cumberland County, PA; about half an hour or so from our house.) The reaction is usually somewhere between mild surprise and utter shock. It seems that most people assume that the norm is international adoptions. Nothing against that, and we have many friends who have gone that route to adopt and expand their families, but that wasn’t what we were called to do.
I must admit, I find it disappointing that so many Christian families choose to adopt internationally. I know, there are great needs overseas. The kids are getting an opportunity that they would never get any other way. They are given a new lease on life, so to speak. Kids with no hope and probably little chance for a bright future are rescued, and maybe even redeemed. I get that. It is wonderful for those kids. But what about the kids in the U.S.? There are so many kids of all ages that need a good home, yet it seems we overlook them so often. Why? I know there are several reasons, and most I would call excuses.
First, some people are called to the tough job of bringing a child half-way around the world and helping them acclimate. I most admire those who adopt older kids. The challenge of bringing a child who is old enough to talk, have friends, memories, etc. and must leave all that, learn a new language in a strange place with strangers has a lot to process, and helping them through that is tough, and worthy of admiration.
Other reasons seem much more self-serving, at least to me. Some like the fact that there is little to no chance of having to deal with relatives who want to maintain contact with the child. Others may find it appealing to adopt a child who has never had a formal “mom” and “dad” and has been living in an orphanage. I’ve known friends who seemed to think that this would mean that they would be able to really be the first mom and dad for the child and wouldn’t have to compete with memories of a previous parent. There is also the avoidance and uncertainty of trying to adopt a child in the U.S. The waiting lists for available newborns/infants can be long, and mothers can change their minds, so there is some perceived risk. There is very real risks with providing foster care in hope of adopting. Laws in the U.S. rightly seek to provide parents with resources aimed at improving the living situation and returning the child back to their biological home, or at least their extended family. This is a real risk.
We have been planning to adopt at some point since early in our marriage, and always felt that it would be domestic. We knew there were plenty of needy kids here in the states. Christians are called to care for widows and orphans, specifically. We did not feel that the Church as a whole has done a good job of taking this call personally. Why concentrate our efforts on children in other countries when there were so many right here at home that needed loving homes that most Christians seemed to simply be ignoring! We really felt that we were called to take a role in living out what the Scriptures call us as Christians to do. We are trying to practice “true religion” here at home before going to the ends of the earth. It does sadden me that some insist that we are somehow living in a “Christian nation” (I’ll leave the debate about whether nations can ever accept Christ’s atonement alone for now.) when we have so many kids languishing in a system that most would agree is not providing them, on the whole, with hope and a future. Shouldn’t we, as followers of Christ, be preaching the good news, and LIVING the good news to the least of these?
If you are called to adopt, please don’t just assume that means international adoption. Pray about it! Ask God where He wants you. If you are called by God to adopt internationally, blessings! But at least then you will have a clear conscience, knowing you are following His will for you, and the kids He brings you. But if you are called to adopt, or even foster, domestically, know that He will provide strength for the journey, and the hard work that He has called you too is His work. Either way, we’d love to hear about your journey, and support you however we can. I will promise you that having a great support network of family and friends, some of whom have walked the road before you, is valuable, and rewarding in ways you may not see coming!
Great thoughts! I have a friend who has been a foster parent and she would adopt any of her kids in a second, but it never worked out. Reading your blog, it is exactly what she has told me many times. The church really has fallen on the job of caring for the widows and orphans. Congratulations!!
We have a friend who is approved to foster/adopt who is eagerly awaiting a placement. She is a single woman, who therefore wants a girl, and since she will need to work, she has an age range restriction as well. I don’t know if there are any other restrictions she has, or how much “risk” she is willing to take as far as fostering those who have not had parental rights terminated yet. It is a messy process at times, and heartbreaking for those who get close but have to give them back … but it seems to me that life with Christ isn’t supposed to be simple and easy. Christ called us to live hard, counter-cultural lives that require reliance on Him, and growth from us.
I think the desire for international vs. domestic adoptions is just a symptom of some larger problem- look at the way churches are more willing to do missions work in Costa Rica than they are right in their own neighborhood, or their general region. I think you’re right that there is something about doing things abroad that almost seems safer- I think folks have to step further out of their comfort zone to help others or adopt close to home, because they will have to be continually accountable for the actions they take and the words they speak. When you go abroad and then come home, or adopt from abroad, it’s easier to compartmentalize the need you saw there… easier to feel satisfied with the “work” you did there (building a home, doing a drama, saving a child), but realize that it’s not your home, so you can only do so much for them. It’s much easier to ignore the need around you and go overseas, because once you start noticing the need around you, it’s pretty hard to get to a point where you can say “ok, I’ve given all I can give to help you, you’re on your own.” It’s a life long work God has called us to, but we don’t want to step up to the plate, and we don’t want to invest in something (emotionally or financially) that could in the end “let us down” or disappoint us.
I like your thoughts, Amy. We really have wrestled with this part of things, especially since we are now involved in the messy, lifelong, process of continuing contact between them and their birth family. There is certainly a long way for us to go on our journey more holistically, but this is a step for us that feels like following His lead. I certainly have more thoughts on our adoption, and other things you touch on. More to blog about in the future!