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!