The Ministry of Adoption?

A couple of weeks ago our local newspaper did a feature article on a couple of families in our town who have adopted internationally. I believe both of them had adopted multiple children from multiple countries. And their motivation, for lack of a better word, was that caring for orphans is a ministry from God.

I have to admit this attitude of adoption as a ministry bothers me. Yes, the Bible says in James 1:27 that we are to look after the widows and orphans. But as Sherrie Eldridge, adoptee and author, says, “There are many Christians who misinterpret the Scriptures about caring for orphans and widows. The verse doesn’t say to marry off the widows and adopt the orphans. It says to care for them. This can come in the form of financial aid, mission trips, etc.”

In my mind there are a couple of problems with this idea of adoption as a ministry. One is how it makes the adoptee feel. In in her book, Beyond Good Intentions, Cheri Register describes this attitude as one of the 10 pitfalls that adoptive parents fall into. And in that chapter she recounts the feelings adoptees have expressed when “ministry” was one of their parents’ motivations for adoption. Many said they felt that they weren’t free to feel upset or discouraged about being adopted; that since it was a ministry they had to feel grateful for being rescued.

Second, I think often parents who enter into adoption as a ministry to orphans fail to understand the complexities of rearing an adopted child. As I’ve said many times before, parenting an adopted child IS NOT the same as parenting a biological child. Adopted children need more than love and being rescued. Eldridge discusses this in the Q & A I linked to above.

In our community part of this motivation may come from the family’s church. A few of the large churches in our town have adoption ministries, through which they encourage their members to adopt an orphan–international, domestic, and especially from foster care. There is nothing inherently wrong with such a ministry. But some of our friends who had never considered adopting are now thinking it might be an option for their families. My question is, are they truly prepared for such an addition to their lives?

Honestly, I especially have problems with these larger churches and religious-based organizations encouraging adoption. Most people assume that since I’m religious and an adoptive parent, I must wholeheartedly support such efforts. But my feelings are that these churches and organizations could be doing work that better serves the “orphan.”

Today relatively few “orphans” are actually without parents. In so many instances they are without parents because of poverty, social stigma against single mothers, and government policy. I know that’s the case in Korea right now–with little support for single mothers, women feel they won’t be able to provide for their children, and thus make adoption plans rather than face the stigma and harsh realities of single parenting.

Why can’t these large churches and religious organizations work to support change in these situations? I believe all four adoption agencies in Korea have programs through which the agencies are helping educate and train single mothers so the mothers feel they have a choice in whether to parent their children or place them for adoption. Why can’t these U.S. churches and organizations provide monetary support for such programs? Or help with personnel to train the Korean mothers?

Not that we, as Americans, should be telling other countries what to do. But if there are programs in place or local organizations already working in these countries to bring about changes that would allow children to stay with their birth families, wouldn’t that be the best way to look after the orphan?

We love our son dearly and he has enriched our lives in so many ways. But we are the second-best parenting choice for him. He’s Korean; he should have been able to grow up in Korea, knowing the woman who gave birth to him and the family he was born to be a part of.

After reading this, you may be thinking that I’m actually against adoption. I assure you that certainly isn’t the case. Adoption is a great way to build a family. It isn’t difficult at all to love an adopted child with all your heart.

But it’s important that when a family is entering into an adoption, the motivations are right. That they have a real understanding of how complex this parent-child relationship may be. That they have an appreciation for the often confusing feelings the adoptee may have as she grows. That they are adopting because they want to be parents to this child and take on all that it may entail down the road. That, in my opinion, is the real ministry of adoption.

1 Response to “The Ministry of Adoption?”

  1. August 14, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    Just “discovered” your blog and wanted to say hello. Thanks for all your interesting and thoughtful posts!

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My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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