Adoption Shouldn’t Be a Ministry

I’m not really sure how to start this post, but it’s something that’s been weighing on my mind. And I know that many people will not agree with what I have to say. But I don’t believe adoption should be a ministry.

Many churches and religious organizations are encouraging and promoting adoption as a Christian ministry. And while it’s true that the Bible calls us to care for the widows and orphans, I don’t think adoption is always the best way to go about doing that.

Why, you ask? Because today’s orphan is often caught up in extremely complicated social, political, and economic situations. Very few of the much touted “147 million” orphans in the world are “true” orphans. Most have a living parent or even both parents living. But for reasons possibly beyond their control, these  biological parents can’t parent their children.

After reading Cheri Register’s book Are Those Kids Yours? I gained a better understanding of role that our country–our consumer-driven society–often plays in creating these economic, political, and social situations even in other countries that leave parents unable to raise their children. Then, of course, there’s the almost obscene amount of money that changes hands in the adoption process, leaving it hard for me to say that adoption isn’t a big business.

That fact is when I see adoptive parents or prospective adoptive parents wearing shirts that say “147 million -1” or “Adoption Rocks” I cringe. When parents compare the adoption that Christians have into God’s family with an earthly adoption, I wonder if the parents truly understand what earthly adoption means to the child.

Adoption cannot exist without loss. An international adoptee loses not only a family, but a culture, a language, and possibly the chance to grow up in a culture where their ethnicity wouldn’t become an issue. Almost all adoptees lose access to their medical histories. While adoption is a wonderful gain for the adoptive parents, it’s a mixed bag for our kids.

I’ve read the stories of many adult adoptees who say they hated that their parents thought they were “saving” an orphan. These adoptees didn’t want to be “ministries;” they didn’t want to be reminded that they were saved. That meant that they needed to be thankful and should never question the “whys” of their adoption.

I realize that not all biological parents are ready or able to actually parent the children they bring into this world. I realize that adoption has a place in our world. But I also believe that if we worked harder at helping to fix economic, political, and social situations in the world, many of these 147 million “orphans” could stay with the families they are born into. Families that love them.

Adoption has so many layers. Am I thankful for my son? Absolutely. But to me adoption doesn’t rock. He’s not a ministry and I didn’t save him from anything. I have no way of knowing what his life would have been like in Korea. He’s my son, but only because another mother had to make a terrible choice.

My hope, my prayer, is that in my lifetime that number–147 million–will be A LOT less. But not because these “orphans” found homes through adoption. No, my prayer is that by caring about humanity in general, including those who live outside our country’s borders, we can help more children stay with the families they were born to be a part of.

7 Responses to “Adoption Shouldn’t Be a Ministry”

  1. February 13, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Very well said. Somedays I want to go back to my naive view that adoption is a beautiful way to create a family without knowing all the realities of the social injustices, economic inbalances, and grief that make adoption a lot more complicated. We are adopting from China, and I rejoice with my friends when they go to meet their new child, but not participating in the “rah, rah, adoption” cheer always makes me feel a little askew among some Christian bloggers and communities–like I’m the debbie downer who has to point out all the negatives. Your post stated some of the why of my feelings. Thank you.

    • 2 Mom2One
      February 14, 2011 at 11:24 am

      I’m with you! Somedays I wish I could go back to being naive too. And I often feel like a debbie downer too. Thank you for commenting. It’s nice not to feel so alone in how I feel.

  2. February 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks for this post. I 100% agree. The 147 million “orphans” stuff drives me CRAZY.

  3. 5 kristin
    February 13, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Often those who describe adoption as a ministry or speak of “saving” a child just sound very self-righteous. The whole thing is more about THEM than about the child they are “saving”. I don’t see a lot of God in many adoption situations, including my daughter’s. She has had an incredible loss and adoption does not rock. Adoption is not “God’s will”.

  4. March 5, 2011 at 9:16 am

    While I agree with you on a lot of aspects of this post, I think we can encourage churches to consider more in-country, and birthfamily-central solutions without minimizing adoption. I also think there are a lot more things we could be doing as a church domestically to care for at-risk families and break that generation cycle of poor parenting choices.

    I wrote a little about this here at http://www.thecorkums.com/2010/05/18/adoption-failure/

    As an adult adoptee and adoptive mother, I know firsthand about the grief and loss and tragedy associated with adoption. I’ve also experience firsthand how God’s grace can redeem a tragedy and it can be a beautiful thing in the midst of the grief and loss.

    I wrote about this at http://www.thecorkums.com/2011/01/29/10-dichotomy/.

    I hope we can find a balance that doesn’t minimize the problems of taking children out of their birth families and culture but also doesn’t paint adoption as such a horrible solution.

    • 7 Mom2One
      March 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm

      I don’t think adoption is a horrible solution. Obviously our family has been blessed by adoption and I can’t imagine parenting any child other than our son.

      But I don’t think adoption should be touted by churches or religious ministries as “the answer” to the orphan question. It’s not the only way to help. Sometimes it’s not the best way to help. Also it seems to me that many parents who come to adoption through a “ministry” do so not completely prepared for what adoption really is. For the lifelong struggles and losses that many adoptees feel. It seems that if it’s a “ministry”–a good and wholesome thing–there can be no bad in it. Yet any adoption stems from loss and I don’t feel that many parents are prepared for how those losses can impact a life. I think if churches or religious organizations are going to encourage their members to adopt, they should help to fully prepare these men and women for their roles as adoptive parents.

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