Adoption: Not the *only* option

Practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt than the general population.

However, that number is still sadly small.

As some of the most privileged people in the world, it’s no surprise that Americans are leading adoption efforts internationally. But when this is put into statistical perspective, this disproportion becomes far more striking: Since American adoptions comprise nearly half of all adoptions worldwide, this means the global weight of adoption efforts rests on the shoulders of the 2% of American adoptive parents.

More here.

That said…. I’m feeling a little grumpy about a lot of things. It’s good that more Christians are adopting but that number is still sadly low (5% compared to 2%). And the figures about the number of people who are willing to consider it just irk me. I’m willing to consider lots of things. It’s so much easier than actually doing them, and I still get credit just for telling people I’m thinking about it.

I know, I know. I am stepping on toes, and people mean well, and they even believe themselves to be totally sincere and several of them really will adopt ‘some day.’

It’s just that I get a little weary now when somebody tells me they are ‘open’ to adoption but I know they haven’t actually done anything that would enable them to adopt- not so much when it’s an idealistic couple in their early twenties, but as we get into adults in the 30s, 40s and even 50s who tell people they are ‘willing’ to adopt but haven’t made the smallest step towards adoption…  Well, let’s just say I am jaded.

They have been telling people for twenty years they are open to adoption, but strangely,  haven’t ever contacted an agency. They have no homestudy and no idea that one would be necessary before they could adopt. They haven’t read a book about it or filled out a single sheet of paper that would put them on the road toward being available should an adoptive opportunity come up.  They have no idea how much it would cost and they have made no plans to set aside any funding for it. They have no actual concrete plans of any sort (let alone concrete actions), just a nice idea that makes them feel warm inside and gets them approval from others when they verbalize that idea. I’m not even accusing them of consciously seeking approval from others.  Humans are humans, and when we say something and it brings frowns and subtle hints of social disapproval, we are less likely to say it again, and when we say something that results in smiles and subtle signs of social approval, we are predisposed to approve of ourselves as well and much more likely to say it again.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and the thing about that is, when you are deceived, of course you do not know that.  That’s kind of what it means to be deceived.

But you know what?  I get jaded about other things, too.  WHY the emphasis on adoption?  Don’t misunderstand.  I love adoption.  Our family has been blessed by two children who came to us this beautiful way, and we have no regrets, although that is not to say it is still always easy, even today.  That’s not because adoption is hard any more, it’s because having a child with all of the Cherub’s disabilities combined with her innate stubborn-ness is always a challenge, regardless of how she joined the family.  But that’s another story.

While we reward people with our social approval when they talk about about how some day they think they might want to adopt (while actually doing nothing about it), meanwhile, there are children and their parents who need other help that a family not in a position to adopt could give.

Read this story and think hard about it.  There is a lot to consider here.  One of them is the very real scenario where Americans seeking to adopt internationally actually end up creating poverty orphans, black market babies, a flood of ‘abandoned’ children who were being loved and parented by their own families, albeit, poor families.

Read more here (the familyhopelove website at the time of this writing has been hacked, hence the link to an archived page).   Here’s an excerpt:

No family starts the process of adoption wanting to take a child from another family. We all want to give a family and a home to a child who would otherwise grow up in an orphanage or on the streets. But in Uganda, there are not adequate laws, systems and resources in place to protect vulnerable families and children from trafficking for international adoption.

At the same time, I am hopeful. There are a growing number of highly qualified lawyers, consultants and experts working together to reform orphan care and adoption in Uganda. As adoptive parents – and for those of us who consider ourselves Christians, as the people of God – we need to support this work. We need to open our eyes and take steps to “bring justice to the fatherless,” (Isaiah 1:17, ESV).

I am just a mom. I am not an expert in international adoption. But over the last year, I have learned a lot about the orphans and adoption, much of it the hard way. What have I learned?

There are 2.7 million orphans in Uganda. Approximately 1.3 million of these children have been orphaned by AIDS. Most of these children, however, live with their families. Most have one surviving parent and many of the rest live with their extended family.  Millions of people have been affected by HIV and AIDS in Uganda, however as we think about this issue, we need to see the strength and the resilience of the Ugandan family and community system in caring for vulnerable children.

Though statistics are hard to come by – there is little research done into this issue – approximately 80,000 children in Uganda live in orphanages or “children’s villages”. Most of these children have families and are living in the orphanages because of poverty. This is because orphanages create orphans. When well-meaning (often Christian) groups build and support nice orphanages, families struggling with the cost of food, education and health care abandon their children. But orphanages are not good for kids. God designed kids to grow up with families. African families and American families. I think we often look at African families and perceive poverty where it doesn’t exist. We cannot imagine living like most Africans, so we try to rescue kids from poverty by buildling orphanages where the kids will live more like Americans. We then call these kids – who have been separated from their families by poverty – orphans.Building orphanages is not a good response to poverty. Furthermore, orphanages have financial incentives to keep children separated from their families. Orphanges depend on income from sponsorship, donations, and sometimes international adoption.

This needs to change. We need to take steps to support vulnerable families so that children are not placed in orphanages – or for adoption – as a result of poverty. We also need to take steps to help get children out of institutional care by reuniting them with their families or giving them new families through adoption.

Here’s another story, where a family adopted an ‘orphan’ whose mother was dead. Only when they brought the child home, as her English improved, the story she told and the story the agency had didn’t quite add up. Her American mother hired a private investigator who found her living birth mother in 24 hours. The mother, so far as they can tell, is the one who lied to officials in the first place because she believed her daughter would be better off in America. But…. the reason so many of the ‘poverty orphans’ would be financially and medically better off in the USA is because Americans want their children more than they want to help make it possible for those parents and families to keep their children:

Finding my daughter’s family was like lifting a huge weight off my shoulders and off my daughter’s shoulders.  I didn’t realize how much she had been worrying that she’d been lied to, that maybe her mother really had died and no one had told her.  I had many questions answered by the searcher and more answered when I later traveled to meet my daughter’s family.  From everything I’ve learned, I do not believe the agency I used was involved in falsifying my daughter’s story.  I don’t even think her first orphanage was involved.  I believe it came from her family, lying to relinquish her, and the local officials who took the story.  
While I don’t blame my agency for the actual falsification of my daughter’s paperwork, I do blame them for not investigating.  They knew my daughter “didn’t seem to be aware that her mom was dead” and they did nothing about it.  It’s not like the investigation would have been difficult since, with the paperwork I was given, it only took one day to find my daughter’s family.
My daughter’s story falls into what would be classified as benign corruption.  Still, it is corruption.  Without searching, my daughter would have completely lost her true story.  There is nothing that makes that okay for a child that has already lost everything else.


So what can you do, really, if you want to help and you want to put some actual action into that desire?

Kiva Loans
Educate yourself on modern slavery
Contribute somwhere like Fount of Mercy- or The Apparent Project in Haiti. there are a lot of agencies otu there working to make it possible for first parents to stay parents and support their families.

Volunteer at the local Crisis Pregnancy Center- maybe there will be something you can do there to help a young woman support herself and keep her baby.

Or maybe you can still help with adoption- contribute to an reputable agency, help out with a fund-raiser, if you know somebody who is or has adopted, offer some support  – from baby sitting to gas cards to bowls of soup or salad to extra clothes, groceries, toothbrushes- anything.  Get to know them to see what their unique needs are. Ask around- maybe a friend of a friend could use some help.

There are just a few ideas- I am sure there are other things others will think of.  Just do something more than telling people that you have often thought about adopting.

Updated to add this link to a a wonderful story of a childrens’ home who found the mother of one of their ‘orphans’ and successfully helped reunite them.

And in case you missed it in the comments, I am not saying everybody should adopt.  I’m saying we all should be doing something, but what those things are will vary, and I’m saying it’s not that impressive to me that people spend 20 or 30 years telling people how they ‘thought’ about adoption.

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  1. Fatcat
    Posted March 3, 2014 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    I thought this was interesting, a study on child sponsorship.

    Which I also don’t currently do. 🙁

  2. Posted March 3, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    We wanted to adopt and even began the required classes, but the interview process and paperwork was way to invasive and irrelevant so I said nix to that. At the time two of our five children had left home and were successful adults, I thought that the proof of our successful parenting would speak for itself; how naive of me. If the process was less onerous we would have adopted, but the government agency has no right to all the information they wanted. The other factor was the fact that the majority of older children and teens available have been sexually abused and I didn’t feel up to dealing with that. God bless those who are, but with three boys left at home we didn’t want any problems in that department. There is absolutely no way we could afford a foreign adoption so we didn’t even look at that. My parents adopted a special needs child when I was about 14. They were already foster parents and she came to them that way. I believe the requirements for adoption (paperwork, interviews, homestudy) were much less onerous in the 60’s than they are today. It’s almost as if the “system” doesn’t want adoption to take place; too bad for the children.

    • Lynn
      Posted March 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink


      this is coming from someone (myself) who has often heard concerns of the unwarranted invasiveness of S.S., if you wouldn’t mind, I am curious what kinds of (invasive) information they wanted to know to assess a family for adoption.

      It is just something I have been curious about, as I have often heard the comment, but not specifics. However, I have hears so many express concern, I do wonder if there is some agenda behind it…maybe as a way to “weed out” persons / lifestyles they (S.S.) do not actually want to adopt. For example, I would be really curious to know if all potential adoptive families are asked the same questions/investigated in same way/etc.

  3. Posted March 4, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    You might like this recent blog post about the birthday of an adopted special-needs child: .

  4. Fatcat
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    It is really difficult. We tried to adopt from China and had about 2000 dollars into it when they changed the rules and we suddenly didn’t qualify anymore. Then we went into foster care, but that terrified me. I stuck with it for a year then my dad died unexpectedly and the day after we buried him, the social worker emailed me that we needed to update everything again and I just couldn’t face all the paperwork again, at that time. Now I feel like a failure.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted March 4, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Ouch. But you’re not one of the people I am writing about here. Adoption isn’t for everybody. Foster care isn’t for everybody. Adoption attempts do fall through (we paid for a home study for another adoption and then got pregnant and the agency asked us to step back and let somebody else adopt the baby in question. You did do *something*. I am talking about people who never did anything, never started any kind of process, and really don’t seem like they ever will, but want to spend their entire lives cheerfully telling people how much they wanted to adopt- but have never done a thing to put any action into that sentiment.

      • Fatcat
        Posted March 4, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t feel targeted. I just feel the loss of my adopted child from China and my one foster baby deeply.

        • Fatcat
          Posted March 4, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          so that’s what I commented on. Sometimes my comments are kind of unrelated … off in left field 🙂

          And sometimes I get interupted mid-comment.

        • Headmistress, zookeeper
          Posted March 4, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          Awww. That I totally understand. It’s been 18 years and I still wonder how the baby we did the home study for is doing and if it all went well. A couple years later I was looking at an online site for Korean babies. There was one who had several facial abnormalities who for some reason just really resonated with me. I brought him up to my husband and he said I could find out more, and then we learned that we were ineligible for Korean adoptions because we had more than five children under 18 and still at home. It hurt, and I was surprised at how much it hurt.

  5. Rachel
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this. I’m sharing it on FB.

  6. Kimberley
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting about adoption. Interesting following your last post about run away moms. I think there are moms running away all over the world for all sorts of reasons. And I’m absolutely unconvinced that orphanages create orphans. Dead, abandoned babies are found in every country every year regardless of whether there are orphanages. Why do we think it isn’t child trafficking when an unwed 16 year old places her baby up for adoption in the US but for some reason a family that is poverty stricken in another county who chooses the same route is being taken advantage of? There are many waiting children with special needs who need families and often it is the US laws in place to protect orphans which cause YEARS of delays for those children.
    An example is when UNICEF goes into a country and shames them into becoming Hague accredited and then all the children who were found in trash cans and at bus stops are no longer eligible for adoption because they have no paperwork. (I know, shocking that a gov’t agency would think paperwork is the cure to all evils.) And without paperwork how do we know for sure this was really an abandoned child? Sometimes governments are required to look for birth families for YEARS. Remember this child came with NO paperwork. The birth mother is not going to show up for bloodwork. Very often after all the dust settles and UNICEF leaves there is not one single case that goes to court for child trafficking. Often foreign gov’ts assume that if no one has reported a missing child then they don’t want the child back.
    I get that it would be better for the children to have remained in there original families and we should be actively pursuing that goal. But do we tell the current orphans, “Just sacrifice yourself okay? We’re trying to get a whole system in place and given that your gov’t changes every few years it is probably going to take your lifetime.”
    As a side note if you look at the countries that UNICEF tends to go into to change their adoption practices, they are countries that have pro-life laws. Countries where abortion is legal seem to be left alone or given all kinds of passes for not following Convention rules. And really, can a pro-abort organization actually be trusted to be interested in the welfare of children?
    I think you are well meaning to be worried that Christians may contribute to the problem but honestly I think the concerns you bring up just give people an excuse not to adopt. I mean who wants to contribute to child trafficking? No, much better to just stay home and wait until there is no chance that could ever happen while being ‘open’ to adoption.

    Here’s a story of a woman who adopts Serbian children with Downs Syndrome. Sadly due to the fact that Serbia is becoming Hague Accredited, adoptions will now cost about twice as much because you have to use an Agency rather than just dealing straight with their government.

    Here’s a great site for info on the whole system:

    Here is a site about new legislation to help get the adoption process out of power struggles between departments of our gov’t. Something to do NOW would be to research it and if you agree call your representative.

    The only way to end corruption is to get the money out. Making agencies even more involved in the process (and giving them more things they can charge for) is not going to help but the Universal Accreditation Act of 2012 did just that.
    Look up any agency you are interested in and get their IRS 990 form. Shocking how many people in the US make 6 figure salaries placing not so many children ‘all for the love of Christ.’ I believe one guy at Buckner made close to a million dollars. And of course he is in good standing with all the US laws because they do nothing to prevent people from making money off of placing babies as long as they pay their income tax.
    And lucky for everyone here I hear naptime coming to an end. 🙂

  7. Kimberley
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Forgot to mention that I agree with the link you posted that requesting children age 0 to 2 definitely opens the door to child trafficking because Americans will generally pay more for those children and they are an easily ‘sold’ product. But the author’s assertion that they could only request that age because most agencies won’t let you adopt out of birth order if false. I just called her agency, Little Miracles International, and they don’t have that requirement either. I’m glad for this little boy that they did request such a young child because of how wonderfully it worked out for him.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted March 4, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Is it possible that the agency did have that requirement at the time of the adoption but has since changed it? Or perhaps she was given bad information by the person who worked with her.

      We adopted out of birth order stateside, but it was a private adoption and the first sibling group/older adoption our agency had done.

      • Kimberley
        Posted March 5, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Very true, that could be the case.
        Like your experience with people being ‘open,’ I’ve often heard, “We would adopt an older child but fill-in-the-blank won’t allow it so we’ll have to take one of the little cuties.” Sometimes you just want people to own their own decisions you know?
        There are social workers who do home studies who won’t allow adopting out of birth order but they are pretty easy to avoid. There are also social workers who think families with 5 or more children shouldn’t adopt because how in the world could you get through a day caring for so many children?! 🙂 Every family dynamic is different.
        I think I also worry that we have this view that if the mothers in other countries just had access to XYZ then they would lovingly care for their children. While we should work to provide that, as your previous post pointed out, even with all the American advantages we have stateside some parents still run away. Those parents are still living but the children are definitely orphans in the sense that no one is parenting them.

  8. Anita
    Posted March 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    And thank you for clearing up to whom you are speaking… I kinda felt like you were saying that people who don’t want to adopt are awful human beings.

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