Christian evangelical adoption movement perseveres amid criticism, drop in foreign adoptions – yes, they care about orphans but don’t give a squat about adult singles
Recall my previous posts:
- (Link): How Christian Obsession with Orphans Is Creating Problems (article) – Also: confirms my previous warnings about Christians ignoring Christians to help only special classes
- Oct 2013
To many Christian evangelicals, their commitment to finding homes for the world’s orphans is something to celebrate — and they will, gathering at hundreds of churches across America to direct their thoughts and prayers to these children.
But the fifth annual Orphan Sunday, this coming weekend, arrives at a challenging time, and not just because the number of international adoptions is dwindling. The adoption movement faces criticisms so forceful that some of its own leaders are paying heed.
The gist: Some evangelicals are so enamored of international adoption as a mission of spiritual salvation — for the child and the adoptive parents — that they have closed their eyes to adoption-related fraud and trafficking, and have not fully embraced alternatives that would help orphans find loving families in their home countries.
Some adoption advocates in evangelical circles have angrily rejected the criticisms. But the president of the coalition that organizes Orphan Sunday, Jedd Medefind of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, has urged his allies and supporters to take the critiques to heart even though he disputes some aspects of them. Alliance partners, he says, should be eager to support a broad range of orphan-care programs and to avoid the temptation of viewing adoptive parents as saviors.
“When the dominant feature of our thinking becomes ‘us as rescuers,’ we’re in grave danger,” Medefind wrote on the alliance website. “What often follows is the pride, self-focus and I-know-better outlook that has been at the root of countless misguided efforts to help others.”
One leading critic of the movement comes from within evangelical ranks — Professor David Smolin, director of the Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics at the law school of Baptist-affiliated Samford University in Alabama. Smolin plunged into the debate after he and his wife adopted two daughters from India in 1998, then learned that the girls had been abducted from an orphanage where they’d been placed temporarily by their mother.
The evangelical movement “uncritically participates in adoption systems riddled with child laundering, where children are illicitly obtained through fraud, kidnapping or purchase,” Smolin wrote in a law journal article. “The result is often tragically misdirected and cruel, as the movement participates in the needless separation of children from their families.”
Many of Smolin’s concerns were reinforced with the recent publication of “The Child Catchers,” a book about the evangelical adoption movement by journalist Kathryn Joyce.
It details cases where foreign children adopted by evangelicals were mistreated and looks at problematic Christian-led adoption initiatives in such countries as Ethiopia, Liberia and Haiti — where Idaho church group leader Laura Silsby briefly was jailed for arranging illegal travel of children after the 2010 earthquake.
… Christian engagement in international adoption goes back many decades…
In 2007, the Christian ministry Focus on the Family — at the time widely known for its opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage — hosted a summit on adoption issues, and in 2008 it launched “Wait No More,” an initiative encouraging evangelicals to adopt children from the U.S. foster care system.
In 2009, the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, approved a resolution urging its churches to promote “an adoption culture.”
“We call on each Southern Baptist family to pray for guidance as to whether God is calling them to adopt or foster a child,” the resolution said.
The resolution was drafted by a rising young leader, the Rev. Russell Moore, who now heads the SBC’s public policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Committee. Moore is author of “Adopted For Life,” published in 2009, which relates his experiences as father to two boys he and his wife adopted from a squalid Russian orphanage.
Moore suggests that the prospect of evangelizing a child shouldn’t be the primary motivation for a Christian to adopt, but says it’s natural for an evangelical parent to seek to pass on values to an adopted child.
Another prominent evangelical adoption advocate, Dan Cruver of Traveler’s Rest, S.C., addresses that issue in his book “Reclaiming Adoption.” The ultimate purpose of adoption by Christians, Cruver writes, “is not to give orphans parents, as important as that is. It is to place them in a Christian home that they might be positioned to receive the gospel.”
For some adult adoptees, these aspects of the evangelical approach are troubling.
Philadelphia-area social worker Amanda Transue-Woolston, 28, grew up in Cape May, N.J., after being adopted as an infant by a conservative Christian couple. She speaks respectfully of her adoptive parents, but has abandoned their particular faith for far more liberal Christian universalism.
“My belief is that heavy Christian applications don’t help with an adopted child’s identity,” she said. “How the children view themselves in the adoption is much more important than rigidly holding to common Christian cliches.”
… Blacquiere said religious evangelism should not be the primary motive for any adoption.
“The child may be brought up in a Christian family and be exposed to the gospel — that’s all good and well,” he said. “But our primary reason for doing adoption is to make sure every child has a loving family.
“If people are adopting for evangelism, to rescue a child — that’s all the wrong reason,” he added. “These are the adoptions that run into difficulty.”
If current trends continue, expanded alternatives to international adoption will be needed. The number of such adoptions by Americans peaked at 22,991 in 2004, just as the evangelical adoption movement took off, and has dropped annually since then, to 8,668 last year.
Private adoptions of infants in the U.S. also are declining, though authoritative statistics are lacking. Thus the U.S. foster care system — with about 100,000 children waiting for adoption — offers the most options for evangelicals heeding the call to adopt.
Focus on the Family is urging evangelical churches nationwide to take up the cause, and says its own “Wait No More” program has contributed to a drop of more than 50 percent in the number of Colorado foster children waiting to be adopted.
“Our focus is kids who need families, not families who need kids,” said Kelly Rosati, who oversees “Wait No More” and, with her husband, has adopted four children from foster care.
Some anti-abortion activists, including Christian evangelicals, also are showing increased interest in promoting domestic adoption.”
Related posts this blog:
(Link): Good Grief! Five Million Dollar Family Idoltary on Display: Focus on the Family Launches $5 Million Project Targeting Family Breakdown, Social Ills – Please, when you say you support marriage, be honest about what you REALLY mean