Adoption, have you ever stopped to really think about it? To take a long, hard look at all the emotional, social, and ethical issues surrounding adoption?
If you’ve ever uttered the words: “Adoption is in the Bible” or “God adopted us” or “Adoption is a beautiful picture of God’s love for us” (or nodded or applauded in agreement when you heard it from a pastor or speaker or saw one of the hundreds of adoption quotes being continually revamped on Pinterest), let me ask you: Does this conviction come from a fully-rounded understanding of the far-reaching implications of adoption, on not just the adopting family (the part of most adoption stories that gets the most attention), but on the real family, the one that lost?
I’ve always intuitively thought adoption was odd, even when a child. As an adult, I began reading up on it and developed an adoption worldview that was decidedly different than my peers but one that I, for the most part, kept to myself.
As a mother that all changed.
When I look into the face of my young daughter and think of the thousands of mothers around the world who will never again be able to share even a look, much less a touch, or even a conversation with their children, I am left speechless with horror and grief.
Many of these mothers will turn old and gray, never knowing whether their children even lived or died. Some will experience secondary infertility and never conceive another child. Countless others will end up with psychiatric conditions and inability to cope with life. Many, around the world, will say their children were stolen from them. They will never stop searching.
And I look into the face of my child, the one that I know is God’s will for my life because He opened my womb to bring her to us, and I know that losing her to even the most open adoption would break my heart over and over again, every day. For. the. rest. of. my. life.
I took a two-year 55-hour-a-week nanny job after high school and for the first time really bonded with a child, outside of our family. The thought of leaving that baby was more than I could bear so I signed on for the second year. I similarly bonded with other families and their children through the years while between jobs or working around them, and sometimes full-time. When children reached for me instead of their mothers when they were sick, and in the countless other moments of joy and challenge that filled each day, I thought I knew what it was to love a child.
As an aunt, I dissolved into chest-throbbing air-catching sobs when newborns took their first breaths or bellowed out an inaugural wail. I watched my phone for “the call”, showing up in hospital rooms to peek into the arms of family members, into the faces of tiny people I’d never seen before but already knew I loved. A dozen times over, I watched them grow, cheering their milestones, convinced I had reached the highest pinnacle of love possible.
But there was no experience that prepared me for the intense love, bond, and connection with my own child that I felt the moment I first held her in my arms. There is no other feeling on earth, and everything about my life changed. If I lost my daughter (then or now) to adoption, nothing about my life would ever be the same, or right, again.
So when I see adoption, the very first thing I see is loss. Very Great loss.
I see things gone terribly wrong. And I see so much misdirection stemming from leaders, churches, and organizations I’d normally align myself with.
Where others see a completed, finally at peace “family” with the child they wanted, longed for, waited for (and paid for) now “home,” I see a whole other side of what just transpired.
I see a victory to one family that came at great expense to another.
Because 99 times out of 100 that child that is adopted has a family. A real family. One that a God, who makes no mistakes, created. With limited exceptions, he or she has at least one parent, often both, and an extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, great aunts and uncles, and many times the adopted child even has siblings. If an adopted child doesn’t have brothers and sisters today, chances are he or she will have them in the future. These future siblings will possibly be from the same parents.
When I see adoption, I don’t see orphans who were rescued out of desperation, who didn’t have a place or a home, a family or a community.
When I see adoption, I see entire families stripped of one of their own, because of a movement.
I see the Mimi’s and Papa’s who faithfully attend visitation after their grandchildren are taken from their own son or daughter. I see their anguish when recalling how the children cried, begged, and pleaded at every supervised visitation, “Please, Mimi and Papa! Take us with you! Please! Please! Don’t leave us!” I see the conflict of interest in foster-adoptions when foster parents self-report to social workers and visitation is discontinued because “it upsets the children.”
When I see adoption, I see God-fearing couples who will never see their grandchildren again because someone else won the legal battle, someone else had more money, and someone else wanted their children (children that were never unwanted to begin with) enough to tell half-truths and lies to social workers.
I see families that pack up and leave everything because CPS comes poking and prodding, claiming their right to make illegal searches of their homes, and inspections of their children’s bodies, armed only with some anonymous tip of misconduct, or medical “negligence”. And I see the fear that brings because there are people willing to say or do anything to get a child and instances where social workers are found to be grossly in the wrong, having overstepped their bounds, when even judges are corrupt, and the system is used to fulfill “baby orders.” And though we tell ourselves it only happens in rare instances and in far-away places, babies are taken from “fit” parents and doled out to the highest bidders, over and over again, and right under our noses.
And though on its face it seems otherwise, I see human life increasingly devalued and babies and children that become little more than wants on a Christmas list, play things to pacify desire, ending up wherever and with whomever, depending on who played the game right, who tirelessly perfected their adoption dossiers. And I see a host of people who wonder…how did we get here?!
I see an industry willing to wreck entire families for money.
I see expectant moms who are “sold” on the idea that their child is better off with strangers, and who in the throes of pregnancy and uncertainty, come to believe it (for a time). I see this reinforced by well-meaning and good-intentioned people who just roll with the social tide without stopping to really search out and understand the implications of adoption – on the child, the parents, the family, and the community.
I see the lauding of mothers as brave and selfless, making the “choice” to allow their children to have a better life, when actually, if we asked straight questions (and were given straight answers), there wouldn’t actually appear to be much of a “choice” at all.
I see parents who aren’t given the help and support they need to keep their families together and young, poor, or otherwise “unfit,” parents being sold on what is the generally unfounded (and always profoundly unbiblical) notion that “loving” or “caring” for their children equates to abandoning them.
I see prospective adopters who take classes and online courses on how to package and advertise their desire to adopt, and circulate carefully crafted adoption portfolios to maximize exposure to as many potential parents as possible. All in the effort to land a product.
When I see adoption, I see tens of thousands of dollars raised, often with the rallying support of good-intentioned churches, the increasingly popular crowdfunding, and spent on the expenses of adopting a single child when that same amount (thousands of times over) could have made a global impact on orphan care and keeping families together.
I see families that cannot endure the close proximity of children lost to adoption who are berated for even wanting contact (and fearing they’ll break the rules of engagement and end up with legal repercussions). They disengage and slink away from their own churches, neighborhoods, and communities. Meanwhile, another family celebrates “answered prayer” and embarks upon a decades long quest to raise someone else’s children and grandchildren as their own.
I see people living in terror and anguish in the face of injustice.
I see desperate women and families who let adoption agencies and prospective adopters “court” them during pregnancy (drive them to medical appointments, pay for maternity clothes, provide/pay for lodging, cell phones, vehicles, etc. all the while working on closing the sale). I see these same mothers completely in love with their newborns, but backed into corners, unable to wiggle out of the adoption arrangements, in terror that they will go to jail and threatened with the responsibility of medical bills and expenses already laid out on their behalf. I see parents who, in fear of losing their other children, take the only option seemingly available to them.
When I see adoption, I see the only exception the church makes for not defending the helpless.
I see it making no difference despite countless mothers coming forward to say they were coerced and/or changed their minds about their adoptions mere minutes, hours, or days after signing consent. I see families who spend months in custody battles that end badly for them – their children are still gone.
I see a clash of status and wealth.
I see entire communities and people groups preyed upon for their children. And I see this being “OK” with the world at large. (If you click on no other link in this post, click on this one and invest the time it will take to read it.)
When I see adoption, I see people with normal questions, legitimate concerns, and nagging doubts, hushed by feats of Christian linguistics, anecdotal adoption success stories, and inflated reports of an international orphan crisis.
I see the occasional adoption crony deservedly go down for their crimes against humanity while their many coconspirators, the families who continue to hold out their arms for human flesh, go free without legal consequences.
I see churches and church leaders who are seemingly misguided about what the Bible says about adoption. I see them caught up in the fundraising and federal tax breaks that come with adoption. They lead congregations to pray against families that God created and for victory in prospective adopter’s legal battles. And masses of people who nod, and sigh, and lift their hands in agreement in the ultimate group think.
I see celebration and capitalization on other people’s misfortune in ways that would never be accepted in other circumstances.
We would not hear in our churches: Let’s all join together in praying that God’s will would be done in this family’s financial battles – because if their magnificent farm goes into foreclosure we can buy it for pennies on the dollar. It is, after all, obviously adjacent to our own, everyone knows that we want that land. We are better equipped to manage it and we have better intentions for it than that struggling family of farmers. Look what a lackluster job they’ve done so far! See how they haven’t allowed the land to reach it’s full potential! They don’t do enough upkeep. They’re not even equipped to do it. They don’t have the money, the education, or the manpower. We have the resources to change all that. They’re too young! That land deserve a grander home on it with a better and more established family living there that loves and appreciates it. That family doesn’t deserve that land; they simply inherited it. Anybody can inherit something. What truly makes you a property owner is not that you own the land but that you want the land. We’ve spent our whole lives dreaming about a piece of land like this. And we don’t believe in “coincidences.” Not with something like this. God must be all over it! Why else would that land already feel like its ours? Why else would we be so concerned about the outcome of this particular piece of land when there are millions of other acres left unattended. It has to be a God thing. Let’s just pray that family can’t make their mortgage again. Let’s pray that God grants wisdom to the courts in permanently removing this land from this family. And let’s keep remembering to pray that the land doesn’t go through too much distress in the process.
We’d never hear this. Because the whole church would cry “Foul!”
Why is the same heart beliefs and actions that would be considered predatory and unbiblical in any other circumstance are just accepted as par for the course in adoptions?
When I see adoption, I see down the road to adjustments that are never fully made, behavioral backlash by adoptees, children as young as two who are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression and four times more likely to exhibit behavior issues, lost jobs, broken marriages, abuse, and teenagers who are four times more likely to commit suicide than their non-adopted peers and fifteen times more likely to murder their “parents.”
When I see adoption, I see a mess. A holy mess.
I see decades of social shame. I see women who are told they cannot afford to keep their babies (economically, socially, emotionally) and then aren’t given the option and resources to do so. I see heavily-funded abortion crisis centers that are nothing more than thinly-veiled adoption sourcing offices. I see women who change their minds but have little to no legal or social recourse.
I see the defenseless being preyed upon. I see them being told their children will be given better lives and offered what in middle-class American would be deemed a mere pittance, sometimes as little as a few hundred dollars, for the lives that were formed within them. I see women who are said to have sold their babies, with little thought given to the selfishness and evil that exists for there even to be a market for a human life.
I see story after story after story of adoption corruption, reports of 70,000-200,000 babies trafficked annually in China alone, baby stealing, intimidation tactics, and cash for babies. I see these stories unfolding across the last half century until the last few months and I see people saying, “That doesn’t happen here and our adoption was different.” When they can’t all be different.
When I see adoption, I see inter-country baby farming. I see good people fired up to take on a mission to adopt every orphan in the world, and I see that simply fueling an international baby smuggling crisis. Supply meeting demand.
I see inflated “orphan” statistics worldwide that include children with at least one living parent. I see “orphanages” full of “orphans” that are included in these statistics that are nothing more than extended daycare centers for the children of migrant and farm workers during planting and harvest seasons. And parents return to these “orphanages” to find their children have been sold. Er, uhm, I mean… “Adopted into a loving forever family.” One such orphanage unexpectedly lost funding and with closure imminent, the more than 100 children dwindled to only a fraction of that number, because the parents collected their children. (Though the original number of children would be included on “worldwide orphan statistics.”
When I see adoption, I see 28 Chinese babies in suitcases being bussed to the border in South China, and the purchase of a newborn being brokered in a hotel room. Yet, I see churches and adoption agencies continuing to post about the “need” for people to adopt from around the world.
I see the American dollar go really far in countries where we source humans, and I see us ignoring these stories as anomalies, and continuing to pour funds into a corrupt system.
I see mothers all over the world being told their babies are sick, or dead, and right here in our own country. I see this happening at a time when we thought the world was a safer place to live. And yet we don’t think it could happen now.
I see a market that meets supply and demand. Around the world and across recent history. Right here in our back yards and right now.
I see people buying into and funding a corrupt system.
I see people who spend weeks in foreign countries and months and years on waiting lists here in our own, who jump impressive bureaucratic hurdles, develop brilliant adoption profiles, yet never, in all that time, meet the parents, family, neighbors, or friends of the child they’re trying to adopt. They just take an agency’s word for it that these are unwanted children.
I see state laws that give preference to foster parents after a set amount of time, as if the rights of parents and families can expire. And I see incentive to keep children caught up in systems when the payout (adoption) is coming.
I see potential adopters who tediously study and memorize adoption law to win contested adoptions (where the children clearly have families who want them).
When I see adoption, I see people willing to take care of other’s peoples’ children only on their terms. You give up your family to live with us. You give up your culture and immerse yourself in this one. You lose your identity. You give up your name and take on ours. You give up your original birth certificate and it gets replaced with one that says we’re your parents. But we’ll be sure to tell you that you were adopted, so that makes it alright.
I see an exchange of basic human rights in exchange for adoption. I see tiny humans being forced to give up everything they’ve ever known, even before they know what they have or what is precious to them.
I see children thrown into different cultures and expected to rebound without a hitch, when those very same cultures recognize that babies can hear and respond as early as in the womb. Those children are born acclimated to one language and exiled to a country that speaks another when the money spent on exiling one human life could be used to generate a decade of care for several.
Instead of open, reversible or transferable guardianships (that would accomplish the same thing) that could evolve with the future and with a parent’s ability to care for the child, I see sealed adoptions that forever make a child the property of someone else and completely obliterate any hope of restoration of the original family.
And I want to ask the hard questions, starting with: WHY?! are we fighting to take people’s children away? Why is it “normal” that friends and followers can ask us to pray for their adoptions and post status updates about the process, with only ever posting a partial picture of the child’s face “until the adoption is finalized?”
What are we hiding?
Why can’t we be open about their true identities? WHO are we hiding these children from? Do parents, grandparents, and other family members out there want the child? Is it done on the sly because they might put up a fight in court, drive up the legal expenses, draw out the process, or later come calling at front doors and claim their own?
If these children have to be hidden from people who might claim them, why are they being adopted? Why the incredible need for discretion prior to finalization…and then a professional “family” photo shoot for the world to see, once the rights to the child cannot be revoked. Who are we kidding?
When I see adoption, I see details of origin and identity and photographs initially hidden in the name of “privacy” or “respect” that come out in the clear wide open after an adoption is finalized.
I see people playing God with other peoples’ very lives.
I see deceit, cover-up, hiding. I don’t see openness. I don’t see a true intent to care for a child until such time when its family can or will provide care, only a desire to care for a child if it can be fully, completely and legally made mine.
I see trusting fragile human beings who don’t even realize yet how much has been taken them. Who don’t know they’ve stripped of their basic human rights; their birthright, family, identity, heritage, and communities. And who, in the case of international adoptions, have usually also been stripped of language and culture.
When I see adoption, I see loss. A very great loss, all around, no matter which way you cut it.
When I see adoption, I see very well-meaning people caught up in a trend that is destroying generations of people. And it’s a very popular one.
When I see adoption, I see a “forever family” created at the “forever expense” of other people whose lives matter.
When I see adoption, I see orphans being taken care of not only in lieu of widows (or any woman that is impoverished, destitute, down on her luck, or without the means to keep her children) but many times at their expense.
And I see this right in the very town where I live, in the churches just minutes from my front door.
I see the faces of these mothers and my heart is heavy for their deep loss.
I see unnecessary hurt and despair.
And not just for the mothers. I see the fathers who didn’t have a say or might not even know at all. I see the rest of the families who are forever bereft, but in a way that brings no closure, no end to the sadness, no salve for the loss.
When I see adoption, I see stories that seem to work out, and children who spend years seemingly happy, but then I hear and read story after story about grown adopted children who immediately launch a search for their parents, the parents that the God of the Universe gave them, as soon as their adopters grow old and die. Sometimes this is when an adult child first knows he or she is adopted, and (as with our family friend) it’s devastating.
So while I see the smiling “family” portraits with the new additions, and the happiness and joy that a child brings to adopters, and even the blessing that the adopting family is to the child (I don’t discount that in the least!), I just see beyond that too.
I see a world hurt that is heaped needlessly on people of all ages, around the world, and even on people (including future cousins and siblings) yet to be born. All in the name of caring for orphans.
When I see adoption, I see plenty of people adopting, and speaking and writing about how we should all be onboard with it, because God adopted us into His kingdom (though I believe this is a misinterpretation of Paul’s writings in light of Jesus’ very words, “You must be born again”), and because He commands us to care for orphans. I see an almost adoption fever. And in the meantime, I see neglect of hurting men and women, many of them “widows.”
In light of these realities (these things which barely scratch the surface), when I see adoption, though I agree with the rest of the world that it often looks so beautiful and redemptive on its face, I see a bigger a picture.
One that makes my mama heart hurt just a little deeper.
*Note: When writing about adoption, I am generally envisioning the “typical” adoption of babies and young children, who have one or both parents living, are adopted by non-relatives, usually outside of the community of the child’s birth, whose birth records are often sealed, whose birth certificates are altered, who may be raised with the knowledge that they are adopted but with little to no access to, or contact with, their families or communities of origin.
I don’t in any way discount the desire of older children and teenagers to make a fully informed decision to make a life with new folks, of family members to adopt the child(ren) of a deceased loved one, or of a person to adopt the child(ren) of a spouse for legal and other reasons (though I still have reservations and for many reasons favor guardianships, which accomplish the same purpose). I additionally understand that some things are obviously not black and white, and there are usually obscure and unprecedented exceptions to every social issue.