Examining Adoption Ethics: Part One
by Jen Hatmaker on May 14th, 2013

When I was in college, a guy drank a bottle of hot sauce for $100. He was sick for four days. That sauce came out everywhere; both ends, pores, night sweats. He had to buy expensive medicine to help repair the lining of his stomach, you guys. No matter. Because 1.) the bragging rights, and 2.) the $100.
For the love.
I’m wading into difficult adoption territory today, a space wrought with defensiveness and Big Feelings and confusion. Let’s cover this conversation with grace and truth and move gently through it together, beginning with Part One today.
Disclaimer up front: There are so many children who are truly orphaned, with the numbers skewed toward older kids and sick kids. This is a real crisis. There are also adoption agencies with impeccable ethics both here and abroad. Plenty of adoptive families went in eyes wide open, prioritizing transparency and thoroughness. This is not an all-bad or all-good scenario, but a little yeast leavens the entire batch, and no decent parent I know wants to be complicit in corrupt adoptions. This conversation deserves its place among believers.
We can begin here: Sometimes when you wave a $100 in front of someone, he or she will do anything to get it, even something knowingly harmful. Let’s stipulate that rich Americans flooding impoverished countries with millions of dollars to adopt its children will absolutely garner attention. Money has always been a magnet for corruption. While there are obviously lots of true orphans, without question, that much cash flow will generate some “created orphans” to satisfy demand, especially for babies.
Now three years after our first steps, I’m connected to people living in all sorts of impoverished countries, and the word on the street is not good. There is the Christian adoption narrative we use over here, including inflated statistics, words like rescue and saving, and plenty of emotional ammunition (me = guilty), then there is the in-country story, which is something altogether different.
I so want this to not be true, but I keep hearing it over and over in Ethiopia, Haiti, Uganda, Congo, everywhere. The missionaries and locals are saying something very disturbing: so often vulnerable birth moms are coerced and misled, families are manipulated and deceived, children are flat out bought. International adoption is Big Business. I’ve read emails describing orphanage directors who paid $20 for birth certificates and $75 to take a baby right out of his mother’s hands. Paperwork is falsified and birth families are told their children are going to school, to triage while they stabilize, to receive health care then return home.

There are very real orphans all over the earth, but most of us don’t pursue the kids there are; we pursue the kids we want, and these countries know the score. Older kids stay on waiting children lists, while the baby line is hundreds deep. It doesn’t take long for opportunists to figure this out.
I’ve heard of too many devastated birth parents, shocked and confused their children were adopted to another family. Basic investigations have uncovered entire communities picked through for their children, like door-to-door salesmen. I’m not hearing enough about prioritizing birth families and empowering them to raise their own children, not even from well-meaning adoptive parents. Isn’t that what we want? Shouldn’t intact families be our highest goal? Shouldn’t we want for birth families exactly what we want for our own, if it is possible?
But birth families are not prioritized; adopters are. The system is geared to make us happy, to keep us coming. There is this silent belief that kids are better off with us, period. We say, “God chose this child for me. She is mine. She was always meant to be mine.” No. Our children were meant for their birth families, the way every child ever born is. God did not intend these children for my wealthy home and accidentally put them in Ethiopian wombs. Does God not weep for birth moms who were tricked? Who were coerced? Who were so vulnerable? Were their children gifts for us and not them? This perspective insidiously tricks us into overvaluing our "rights" and devaluing first families or reunification efforts.
With much of the adoption pipeline supplied by corruption and confusion, we cannot possibly claim God’s sovereignty. We need to call it what it is: an injustice God would never endorse. It is time to stop participating in the type of adoption that encourages able-bodied parents to give up their children or get pregnant to supply a baby for a paycheck. We cannot be complicit in what amounts to trafficking.
When we began the process, Brandon and I assumed we were adopting kids with no parents. We were shocked to discover most kids in our pipeline had one or both living parents, including our two. Without sharing too much of their stories, I’ll tell you that both kids could be raised by able-bodied birth parents or extended family. That doesn’t change the fact that they were both relinquished, Ben in an orphanage nearly three years when we met him at age 8, but we are haunted by the possibility that some simple development and intervention could’ve prevented them from ever entering the system.
“It’s too complicated.” “They cannot handle their own kids.” “They are too poor.” “Life is too unstable there.” These are the arguments we bandy around about birth parents. Frankly, this is an easy pill to swallow and goes down in seconds without much consideration. Just like that, I’ve severed the biological tie and discredited the argument for reunification.
Yet people working in impoverished countries tell me something totally different. My friends, Troy and Tara Livesay, work in maternal care in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. By every statistic and standard, it is a hot mess. Yet at Heartline, their organization that offers prenatal care, safe birthing facilities, and parenting and child development classes for vulnerable moms, their numbers disclose something astonishing: Out of roughly 300 births – and I’m talking very poor women, some raped, some teenagers, some single moms, extremely disadvantaged – only ONE birth mom has ever relinquished her baby. As Tara told me, “If our small, simple operation has virtually a 100% success rate, we are not trying hard enough for birth families.”
What would happen if we reallocated a percentage of the millions we spend on adoption toward community development? What if we prioritized first families and supported initiatives that train, empower, and equip them to parent? This would absolutely be Orphan Prevention, not to mention grief prevention, loss prevention, abandonment prevention, trauma prevention, broken family prevention. What if we asked important questions about supply and demand here, and broadened our definition of orphan care to include prevention and First Family empowerment?
Adoptive parents are so precious to me; this community is dear. I only feel safe raising these disturbing concerns because I know our hearts. You would not sit one of us down and discover evil motives or a calculated rejection of birth moms. The opposite is true, in fact. These are some of the best people I’ve ever known. This is no attack; rather it’s grabbing hands with my community and humbly acknowledging that where there is a lot of smoke, there is some fire, and none of us endorse international pyromania.

When the critics are primarily adult adoptees, misled first families, locals and missionaries, in-country nonprofits, and developing countries in general, we should listen.

I simply believe it is time to take our good hearts and add our good minds. Adoption is the worst place to enter armed with nothing but good intentions. Rather than get swept up in emotional jargon and moving videos, we must move forward soberly, carefully, thoroughly, setting any agenda aside and working like hell to protect children, birth families, communities, and the kingdom.
Dear Ones, again, adoption is complicated and nuanced, and corruption does not apply to every situation obviously. There are clearly scenarios dripping with abuse, neglect, total abandonment, and bad parents, which exist in every country. Orphans are real and some kids really need families, and I personally know scads of your above-board stories. So many of our kids had no option for reunification or extended family or in-country adoption. 

Discussing unethical adoptions, I am not saying always; I am saying sometimes, and if there is a sometimes in the mix, then we must go on high alert. We have to. We cannot simply hope we have no part in the sometimes
…we must insist on the never.
In Part Two, I’ll get down to the nitty gritty: What do we do? What questions do we ask? What are the red flags? How do we evaluate our agencies, since we must place so much trust in their integrity? How do we refuse complicity in unethical practices?

[Image courtesy of Free.Digital.Photos.net]

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Marcie - May 14th, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Good post! We're in the middle of our third Ukrainian adoption, and it saddens me that this is such a big problem in so many countries. The Ukrainian system is corrupt on a lot of levels, but not so much in the ways you've mentioned here. I'm looking forward to Part Two!
Ashley - May 14th, 2013 at 1:53 PM
We, too, have a little Ukrainian with Down syndrome. He would not have been adopted in his culture, and his birth parents gave up rights. I agree, it IS corrupt, but in different ways.

I agree wholeheartedly that our adopted kids were NOT 'meant to be in this family since the beginning of time!' No, no, no. We are plan b. And if we are plan b, shouldn't we be finding ways to encourage and support whatever plan a is?!

Looking forward to part 2!
Sarah - May 15th, 2013 at 7:22 AM
When I hear of families adopting from the Ukraine, my heart is happy, Especially when older or children who are otherwise "less than ideal" to adopt are adopted. As orphaned children, they are kicked out of the system around 15 (not 100% sure on that number) but I know that so many of them are left with nothing. My friend's family has recently adopted two boys from the Ukraine. It isn't an easy transition by any means. but these boys are in a loving home now.

Bless you both!
Margot - April 1st, 2017 at 7:31 AM
Pardon me if I'm wrong, are the children in Ukraine in an orphanage
Because their is something inherently wrong with their families?
I've heard of many children coming from Ukraine recently. Poverty being cited
As the#1 reason for orphan placement.

As well as government taking the children and making them available for afoption.

I'm just looking for clarity on the different corruption there?
Renee Keene - May 14th, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Wow...what a clear image of what happens when money corrupts our view and perspective. Ty for sharing the other side of adoption...these women need their voices heard. As a mother of four I cant imagine someone deceiving or tricking me out of my child. This should not be happening.
Julie - June 9th, 2013 at 9:10 PM
Jen, I have enjoyed this topic, but what really bothers me about your posts is how much fact you leave out of these. You just tell the side you want to tell.

Yes, Heartline is a fantastic organization. But have you considered that part of the reason that they have an almost 100% success rate has to do with the fact that HAITI does NOT even do adoptions anymore?? No woman in the country even has the OPTION to chose international adoption! I'm SO glad these women have help and support they need to survive and take care of their children. But just think... if they had the option of adoption how many do you think would?

The answer is "yes" more often out of reasons that have nothing to do with poverty. Many have jobs that take their entire day, every day of the week, and dont even have time to be a mother if they want to have a job to provide for even themselves.

Every women in the world does not even have the option of an amazing organization like Heartline. I believe we should try for that, but nothing we do will ever give them the full emotional, physical, and SUSTAINABLE support they will need for the rest of their life. But adoption is. Do you think we should be more understanding when women chose to place their children for adoption b/c it is the only true option available to them?
Thomas - September 11th, 2014 at 7:02 AM
You may be right, when you say that more women would consider adoption had it been an option for them. However, I disagree that, "nothing we do will ever give them the full emotional, physical, and sustainable support they will need for the rest of their life." I agree that there is perhaps nothing we are willing to do, that will sustain them. I fear, that sometimes, Christians don't consider the weight of the second greatest commandment. After Christ told us the greatest commandment was to love God with all that we are, He told us to love others, "like we love ourselves." As Christians, perhaps we could provide sustainable support for those mothers if we sold our house and moved to Haiti to start a day care center for full time working single mothers. Perhaps, if we cancelled our cable and sent that $150/month to an organization that worked with these women, they would be able to use that money and invest it into an education that trains them in a skill set that provides sustainable financial freedom, and reasonable working hours. I don't know what the specific answer is for all individuals, nor do I know exactly how the church should combat this epidemic. However, I know that we cannot afford to throw our hands in the air, decide there's nothing that can be done, and then turn our attention to the weekend's big game or our latest home upgrade. My wife and I are still praying that God gives us wisdom and direction on what we should do with our time, money, energy, ambition, home, etc so that we can have the most impact for the Kingdom of God. As my wife and I are navigating through the earliest stages of the adoption process, we have both decided that we aren't comfortable adopting orphans who were orphaned due to poverty alone. Some of our friends were missionairies in Ethiopia, and they told us that we shouldn't discount adopting orphans who were made so by poverty alone, because often times the poverty leads to such a malnurished mother that she cannot breast feed her child; so in true maternal love, she places her child up for adoption knowing there is no hope for her child, if left under her care. However, if I'm going to love that mother like I love myself, I have to think the best way to combat the evil of poverty and starvation is not to adopt her child; but rather, it is to do what I can to empower her to be able to raise the child she still clearly wants and loves.
Kim Butterfield - April 3rd, 2017 at 9:42 PM
I think your reasoning supports the adoptiion industtry; this narrative contributes to the ongoing separation of children from ntheir families.
Gina - May 14th, 2013 at 12:47 PM
I love your heart. I wish we could have coffee.
Debi - May 14th, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Thank you for this! My husband and I are starting the very early stages - research of types of adoption, agencies, what questions we need to ask, etc. We definitely want to go in with our eyes wide open. This is so much bigger than our desire to be parents.
Rebecca Wimmer - May 14th, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Simply, thanks Jen.
Hayley - May 14th, 2013 at 12:47 PM
Yes, yes, yes, yes times a million. Blasting this on my humble Facebook page. Thank you, Jen.
Megan Daniel - May 14th, 2013 at 12:48 PM
This is very important. I pray it starts many discussions and changes hearts toward a set of workable solutions.
Carla Bellew - May 14th, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Fantastic post--looking forward to Part II to see how I can help these families in poverty. Thank you!
Meghan - May 14th, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Love this post and your heart.
Courtney - May 14th, 2013 at 12:53 PM
thank you. so much truth here. we canNOT be ok with "sometimes".
Kate - May 14th, 2013 at 12:57 PM
All this...it's never - ever - occurred to me.

For bringing it up and gently dangling it in front of our faces - I thank you. Yes - looking forward to Part 2.

Kind Blessings,

courtney - May 16th, 2013 at 11:08 AM
It has never, ever occurred to me either. Simply, wow.
Amanda - May 14th, 2013 at 12:59 PM
Adoption is the worst place to enter armed with nothing but good intentions. Yes. Thank you for this post and for bringing awareness to this issue.
Amy T. - May 14th, 2013 at 1:00 PM
Oh what a can of worms you've opened this time. I fear our American consumerism, wealth and sense of saving the world (when there is only one Savior) is just wreaking havoc on this world in ways we haven't even begun to imagine. Many of these ways are even born of noble and good intentions, yet our eyes are closed to all the implications except the one where we feel as if we have done a good deed. I may be pointing one finger out, but I am certainly pointing 3 back at myself here. Thank you for shedding light on this complicated issue. I'm looking forward to part 2. These issues never have easy answers, but that's no excuse to not make a start. Thankful that there is enough grace to go around to everyone involved.
Bethany - May 14th, 2013 at 1:00 PM
I commented back and forth with Tara on one of her posts about this... ugh! We are waiting for a referral from Haiti! I don't know what control we'll have over the situation, if any, or what our child's story will be. I DO KNOW, however, that we did not expect to have birth parents in the picture. No matter what happens, we will be directing earnest efforts toward this kind of orphan prevention! Heartline seems like an amazing place- doing good, good things for the beautiful mamas of Haiti.
Kim - May 14th, 2013 at 5:42 PM
Bethany, just to encourage you- we are adopting from Haiti. We wanted to adopt a "true" orphan. Too many issues for me with relinquishment and for ME I'd always wish I had been able to intervene and help the mom KEEP her baby vs. give it up, etc. I just prayed and prayed. We expressed our concerns to our agency and though they seemed totally annoyed (might have been my own perception), we were matched with a "true" orphan. He came through Haitian Social Services so it isn't just a creche's word, so I don't have to wonder, etc. I believe the desires God placed in my heart, he fulfilled. Praying the same for you. I was stunned at his faithfulness and yet sat thinking, "why did I doubt?" He is faithful;)
Sarah Hubbell - May 14th, 2013 at 1:01 PM
Thank you, Jen, for your grace and honesty in tackling this subject. It has been weighing heavy on my heart as we walk through our journey to adopt from Haiti. Tara has been such a help to me and truly a gift of prophesy from the Lord for me as we chose who to work with. So far I just feel so protected by God in this, in choosing our agency (the same one as yours) and orphanage. I want to keep moving forward with eyes wide open, never being selfish, if that's at all possible, and listening closely for the Lord's direction. I certainly would appreciate your prayers for us. I can't share details of our child's story but I hold the term "our child" very loosely until all is said and done as ethically as possible.
Christina - May 14th, 2013 at 1:02 PM
Thank you for the post. When we brought our son home from Ethiopia I was haunted with the same questions. We didn't have any information on his birth parents as he was found alone on a sidewalk. I wondered if I could have somehow given his birth mom the support and money that we had put into the adoption, then maybe she could have raised him... Was it really the right thing to do to whisk him away from this beautiful culture and raise him in our "oh so superior" American culture? Ultimately, adoption is not the answer to the orphan problem. It may be part of the answer, but it's not even close to being the whole answer. I look forward to your next post on this topic.
Rachel - May 14th, 2013 at 4:10 PM
" We didn't have any information on his birth parents as he was found alone on a sidewalk."

Statements like this terrify me, because I feel like it's situations like yours that are being alluded to in this article. Just because that's what you were told, doesn't make it true.
Liz - May 14th, 2013 at 8:14 PM
So, what is the answer for our children that we've brought home with little to no information? Do we pay for adoption searchers? Do we give our children back if there is a birth family? These questions are haunting, as are the questions about what to do going forward?
Ami - May 14th, 2013 at 9:57 PM
Absolutely, yes. We pay for private investigators to give us the real deal.
Betsy - May 14th, 2013 at 11:38 PM
If families have lied to the care centers, the courts and everyone else involved, they will continue to like to a private investigator. It has happened in many situations and the adoptive families find out the painful truth later when visiting the birth families themselves. You cannot always trust what a private investigator finds.
Jason - May 15th, 2013 at 1:26 PM
Yes, but maybe the birth parents themselves were lied to. A private investigator isn't just for our benefit. It's for the childs, and possibly the birth parents.
Kerry - May 15th, 2013 at 2:04 PM
Maybe the first family will continue to lie and maybe they won't. You are right, you can not always trust what a P.I. finds. It is a long road to the truth. And the truth, unfortunately, changes over time. But in a conversation as delicate as this, I think we should be sure to use words like "Sometimes" "often" or "might." The reasons a family might lie can change. Some family members may be more willing to tell the truth than others. There are many steps to finding the truth. A P.I. is one possible step.
Rachel - May 15th, 2013 at 11:21 AM
I agree with you, there are no easy answers. I think adoption searchers and independent investigators are a great first step. I hope that more parents will hire outside agencies to verify the child's status before the adoption is complete. That's what I plan to do.
Jeze - May 16th, 2013 at 4:53 AM
I second that - absolutely, yes. If the children were stolen from their parents then they deserve to grow up with their original family. If the original parents were given promises, those promises must be kept. Agencies aren't always honest, some have falsified or switched records to facilitate an adoption that wouldn't have taken place otherwise. If you love and care for your children, you will do what you can to make sure THEIR best interests are followed and that their lives and stories are treating with truth, honesty, and respect. Since you adopted them, you are responsible for ensuring this.

As haunting as it may be to you, it's not even your life. It will likely become more haunting to them as they get older, and may affect how much they can trust you.
Naomi - May 31st, 2013 at 3:19 PM
I have a hard time with this: "Do we give our children back if there is a birth family?"

OF COURSE you do. If there is a birth family who was tricked, why/how would you even think of keeping your child?! What if you were the one who was tricked? Wouldn't you do everything in your power to get your child back?
Meghan - June 9th, 2013 at 3:31 PM
As an adopted child myself I don't think it's that simple. Would you automatically send a child who has been in America for 10 years away from the only family they've known? If a child has known only one mother (the one who adopted them) for their entire life it would be shocking and hurtful to be suddenly taken away from that mother and moved to a country they have no memory of. As a responsible parent you would want to find out as much as you can about the family who was deceived into giving up their child -- make sure that the home is safe and loving. And, if the child is old enough, give them a voice in what happens to them.

I just don't think there is ever an "of course" when it comes to adoption. Each child, each family, each case is different. Decisions must be made based upon what is truly best for the child, and that may not automatically be with their birth parents.
Christina - May 15th, 2013 at 1:20 AM
I completely understand your concern about that generic statement. We received very specific police reports and details surrounding his circumstance, I guess I just didn't feel the need to go into all of that.
Karon - May 15th, 2013 at 8:26 AM
We adopted our son from a disruption but he is Chinese and has sever birth defects. He was found with nothing at @5 months old. I cannot help but wonder what gross human rights are violtated to force a parent into such choice and one I as the mother of their child, feel compeled to address. Our other son (Kazak) did have a relinguishment letter and after further research, all checked out to be acurate and true. This provides me some comfort, but also, compels me to help future mothers like his.
lea - May 14th, 2013 at 9:14 PM
I don't think the majority of adopting parents go
Into adoption with the mindset that you are stating
Wealthy western home vs material poverty. Or maybe
I am misunderstanding your definition
Of material poverty. The parents I know who have chosen to adopt do
So because their children faced extreme poverty- yes they have able bodied parents who can work but they have no opportunity to do so- they can't feed their children one meal a day.

Also I understand your statement about the majority of
birth moms choosing not to relinquish their children but does
That mean that a week later that this same mom who doesn't have enough nutrition
in her own body to nurse her child won't leave her child on a street to die because she knows she can't provide for him/ her- is that the better solution.
Because that occurs daily too. Of course most mothers wants to raise the child they've been creating for 9 months and fall in love with instantly but many of those same moms can't bear seeing their child die before them. Yes we need to change that but what's the option for these children in the meantime?

Camilla - May 30th, 2013 at 1:23 PM
I've had the same thoughts about my twins from South Africa. One was in an orphanage from infancy. She was ill and the young birth mom chose not to take her back. But the choice was passive. She never got in touch and no one pushed the issue. Three and a half years later, my other twin was removed from the birth home. It was made clear to the birth mom that she could regain custody, but that she'd have to change her living situation (alcoholic, abusive partner, child suffering from pretty severe neglect). She said that she wanted to visit that child, but never worked up the nerve to see the two of them together. Ultimately, she opted to sign off on an adoption provided that they could be adopted together. Everyone in South Africa thought this was great. I did, too, because I wanted the girls to grow up together. But I did think about the cost of the adoption and what that money could have done for the birth mom. Or could it? She was from a similarly sad background. The ultimate cause of her problems was the history of Apartheid in South Africa and the continued "economic apartheid" - plus all of the social problems that come along with oppression and poverty. So, while I'm very happy to have my children and feel most blessed that they can be family again, I do think about the fact that their birth mom had all odds stacked against her and so I got her children. And I go round and round with myself on this. One twin has FASD and she can get the educational support and speech therapy, OT, etc that might give her the chance to grow into an independent adult. On the other hand, my kids aren't in their birth culture and are truly American kids by now. Adoption starts with loss, as we all know. But I wonder if the loss ever ends.
Monica - August 27th, 2018 at 3:53 AM
I'm 52, adopted in the baby scoop era, no the loss never ends.
Elizabeth Marshall - May 14th, 2013 at 1:03 PM
Yes, adoption is complicated, nuanced and layered. What a huge (()) from my end for wrapping this discussion well in words. It is the best and most complicated thing I have ever been a part of with my husband. And ours was domestic and 24 hours from birth mother to my arms. I may email you more. But thank you for this taking this complicated discussion on so thoughtfully. This is important.
LaRissa - May 14th, 2013 at 1:06 PM
I would add very similar sentiments about domestic adoption. Although the type of "money on the line" situations you are describing are different here in the USA, it's still a very thought provoking idea, how little we care about the least among us, how little we care about those families being whole and healthy. My biggest heartbreak as an adoptive mom of two children through DHS is to hear other believers belittle their birth mother (or others like her) as lazy, drug-addicted, good for nothing, worth nothing to anyone anywhere types. I know we are just Plan B, that God would love nothing more than for someone to have come alongside her and helped her learn how to be an able woman and good mother so that her family could be whole. We chose to adopt two children who were facing a lifetime in the system - the state had already decided she couldn't have her children - but I long for a day when this type of systemic problem no longer goes unchecked by the Church and she is no longer unloved by Christ's follwers.
Vanessa - May 14th, 2013 at 1:13 PM
We adopted through the foster care system, which has led me down a long, unexpected path toward intense compassion for birth mamas, too. I had no idea how complicated it all is....how much loss and grief and struggle is represented. My life would be so much emptier without my girl, but her birth-mother's life is emptier instead. It is deeply sobering. This is an important conversation.
Toni - May 14th, 2013 at 3:18 PM
Totally agree. We adopted a sibling group of 3. Ranging from 6yrs to 6months. They never knew each other, they were never placed together or had sibling visirs. Their story is sad but has an amazing ending. Their birth mom's heart must ache daily. A wound that never closes.
Osheta Moore - May 14th, 2013 at 6:28 PM
I'm so glad to read this thread on domestic adoptions. I'm confident the next child we'll add to our family will be through adoption, but I want to be sure every avenue has been exhausted before we become that child's parent. I've always wanted to have a home big enough to create a safehouse for pregnant teens to have their babies, receive the help they need to be the best moms they can be, and connect them with ways to get back on their feet. I agree, this is an important conversation. Most birth moms just don't have the support system or resources to be good mothers. I believe it's time for moms like me wonder 'how can we come alongside and care for both the mother and the children". Thank you both for your perspectives, it's incredibly helpful for a mom at the beginning of this process of exploring domestic adoption.
Caterina Maria - May 14th, 2013 at 9:25 PM
I plan to foster a teen mum at some point in my life. I, too, have wanted to make a safe place in the world for pregnant girls to have the babies they've chosen to keep. Maybe if I do it one at a time, something good will come?

If I adopt, it will be from the pool of children in need of permanent placements domestically, probably even in my own city -- it's my understanding of the system that parents whose children are declared to need those permanent placement have had chances and chances to get it right. Learning about this stuff in class is a real eye-opener!
Kerry - May 16th, 2013 at 11:45 PM
rom a pediatric nurse perspective who has taken care of abused and neglected children, I really struggle with your determination to fight so hard for Plan A. In my experience natural parents are given so many chances. I took care of 5 year old who swallowed drano that his parents were using for their meth lab. He and his brother had been removed twice by DHS prior to this incident. The system failed him tremendously. At what point is enough enough? I am all for grace and trying our best to keep families together but sadly I have seen it fail at the child's expense. We looked into fostering to adopt but unfortunately we were turned down because we choose to selectively vaccinate. There is such a strong sentiment in this thread and many I have read as though adoptive parents only want " babies" as if it is a negative thing and what about the older kids who need homes also? I agree that older foster kids need families and to be adopted but expectant mothers weighing the option of abortion need families willing to adopt if keeping their baby is not an option they want.Our agency does not seek expectant mothers...they come to her.
Rachel - May 18th, 2013 at 12:39 PM
YES! Thank you, Kerry! We adopted from Ethiopia and I read a lot about keeping first families together. So I started working here locally at a transitional home for homeless moms of infants and pregnant women as a lactation counselor as well as to educate them on attachment, infant nutrition and infant care. I poured my heart into that work for a year and honestly I'm not sure it made any difference. I would talk to them about how we don't shake babies and that evening CPS was called because a mom shook her baby. All of the babies were born "dirty" - their word for drugs in the system. Most of the women were having their 3rd, 4th, or 5th babies with different men who were often in jail. They had been on gov't assistance for years. Boyfriends would hit the children with electrical cords and they didn't know that wasn't "normal" because that's what was done to them as children. They would neglect their babies and go sleep with their boyfriends, leaving them for hours. My friend, who created this program over a decade ago says that she is so burnt out because she doesn't know if it makes any difference and if anything, it seems women get pregnant again to get more money. The bottom line is that throwing education and money at problems that run so much deeper is just not the answer, or at least not the only one. If only it were that simple!

To say that adoption is geared toward adoptive parents is way too simplistic. The paperwork, the physicals, being vetted by a social worker, the COST. The UN states that very few people who would like to adopt actually do because the process is so difficult.

I am so tired of evangelicals gravitating toward loose cannons as bloggers. (Jen, you've admitted you're a loose cannon, but read what James has to say about the tongue.) I believe in advocacy but advocacy needs to be done with respect. On Jen's Twitter account someone hashtagged "evangelicaltrafficking". Really? Most of the Evangelicals that I know who adopted traveled to their children's birth cities, wanted to meet first families, hired private investigators. And yes there were inflated statistics out there, when adoptive parents read that UNICEF states there are 150 million orphans. My understanding is that was a political move by UNICEF to earn money and it backfired on them when evangelicals got a hold of that number and that it meant our definition of "orphan" meaning both parents are deceased. "Only" 13 million orphans are double orphans and many do have living relatives that could care for them.

Why can't we discuss these things with grace and calmness? Why can't we look at this problem holistically without throwing out accusations like "evangelicals are child traffickers"? Honestly, Jen Hatmaker's posts make me want to disengage with Christianity in America, not because some of the issues she raises don't need to be discussed, but because she goes about it in an angry and disparaging way. Her words drown out her message.
Ellen - May 21st, 2013 at 8:51 PM
My child's birthmother was 14 years old, when she became pregnant. We love her, we pray daily for her, we will forever be linked to her. She has my heart. But, I have no doubt that Plan B (i.e. me as my son's mother) is what was best for my son.

It is easy to get too simplistic and emotional about adoption. The world is not perfect. God, in his mercy, provides Plans A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z. Blaming birthmothers, as has been the historical record, is not the answer. But neither is blaming adoptive parents and making them feel guilty for the rest of everyone's life that they were not Plan A.
Cavman - May 22nd, 2013 at 10:42 AM
That's right! (I wanted a "Like" button) As an adoptive parent, I feel like I'm being blamed for other people's sins and crimes.
Adoptive do need to be wise, ask questions about the process and learn who you can and cannot trust.
And then you still might get lied to. The US Consulate might get lied to.
We are only accountable for our sins, not the sins of others.
I suspect the adoption pushback will not reduce the corruption so much as leave true orphans orphaned.
Ellen - May 22nd, 2013 at 6:02 PM
My suspicions as well. I hope not, but the world is corrupt.
Elizabeth - May 31st, 2013 at 2:12 AM
Thank you so much! I love what you said about not being responsible for the sins if others. I was very upset reading this article. I am a 29yr old Caucasian woman conceived, born and adopted in Canada. I fully believe God's plan A was for me to be the daughter of the people who raised me. I love my birth mother and have a relationship with her as an adult. However God definitely knew she was too young and unequipped to raise me. I admire her decision to give me to loving Christian parents who could. Never in my life would I change that decision. Adoption goes so much further and is so much more important than 'giving adoptive parents what they want'. That whole tone disturbed me greatly. This article addresses things that need to be addressed but goes so far overboard as to be offensive. Did God "make" my mom infertile? Did He "make" my birth mom pregnant and in a situation where she couldn't be the parent I needed and deserved? No! We live in a sinful world and NO birth families are NOT always the best option or should always be Plan A. Could my birth grandparents have raised me? Yes. Could my birth mom? Yes. But she and God both knew my parents were someone else. I am so blessed to have been given through adoption. I wouldn't change a thing. While I write this I also am doing laundry as I pack to go surprise my birth mom And her mom this weekend for their 50th and 70th birthdays. I love them so much but they were not meant to raise me. We have a responsibility to make sure the children we are adopting are being given up by the birth parents truthfully and legally. But that's where the adopting parents's responsibility ends. My mom and dad were not responsible for doing everything in their power to ensure my birth mother could keep me herself. Stating that the birth family is always the best and God intends for that to be what happens is WRONG. A good adoptive parent is ALWAYS better than a birth relative who for whatever reason can't and/or shouldn't raise a child. My REAL parents, the ones who adopted me,brought me home from the hospital and raised me, ARE God's Plan A, the best choice for me. Period.
Cristy - June 27th, 2016 at 9:35 AM
This is absolutely beautiful! I'm very happy that your adoption turned out for the best. But, not everyone is in your situation. I, too, am adopted and I, too, am a Christian. In a perfect world, we wouldn't need adoption. If our world wasn't fallen, children wouldn't have to be adopted. I don't necessarily think it's God's Will for children to be removed from their families and raised by different people. But, I do believe that God uses it for His glory. I did not have the same upbringing as you. My grandparents have always been more of my parents. My adoptive parents were emotionally and psychologically abusive. My dad was an alcoholic who got another woman pregnant and chose his biological kids over me. I'm 25 and I've probably seen him about 10 times in my life. When I became a Christian, about 3 years ago, they kicked me out of the house. Before I became a Christian, I grew up in witchcraft. My mom would take me a warlock to "cleanse me" who would sexually abuse me. After about 6 months that I accepted Jesus as my Savior, my family renounced witchcraft and embraced the Lord. Plan A doesn't indicate that it is the best plan. It was just the original plan. Perhaps your life, and your adoption, has touched your birthmother and has shaped her in such a way that only the Lord in his infinite wisdom knows. But, had you not been born to her, she wouldn't have been molded in such a way. I don't see this article as suggesting that adoptive parents being plan B are a bad thing. It just wasn't the original plan. But, original isn't always "the best." If you ever read the book Primal Wound, it explains that infants experience trauma when separated from their mothers closely after birth. This is very real to some people. My mother says that I cried all night long for 3 months. That I was terrified. I probably was. I only knew one environment, one person... and it all changed. The fact that God created infants to recognize their mothers SO early indicates that God's perfect world would keep families together. Genetics goes so much further than just looks. I have a vastly different personality from my adoptive family and very different interests. Often times, I got made fun of and teased for it, making me feel like the red headed stepchild. You were clearly placed in a family that loved you for who you were. Not all of us were. As far as what was God's first or second option, I wouldn't worry too much about that. God bypasses Plan A for His glory and He has reasons for what he does. He ties it all up in ways that our human minds cannot comprehend.

Kisa Weeman - May 19th, 2016 at 4:37 AM
Completely agree with this. Totally biased article. While there are cases of malpractice in hospitals, you don't shut down the entire hospital. There are certainly ethical adoption providers, for children who desperately need families, but you would never know it from this article. Makes adoptive parents sound like greedy child traffickers.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 6:48 PM
Thank you so much for this addition, LaRissa. I absolutely meant to include domestic and foster implications too and got all worked up and hit "publish." Thank you for speaking this truth.
Cari - May 19th, 2016 at 11:30 PM
This is such a complicated topic and I appreciate all of the comments here. One aspect of this discussion that always troubles me is the insistence that only a 'true' orphan ought to be eligible to join an adoptive family. Or tangentially, that if a child is not a 'true' orphan there is corruption happening somewhere. I personally know probably 20 individuals who have joined thief families through adoption, either domestically or internationally. I can't think of one that was adopted because their birth parents had died. Neither can I think of one whose eligibility for adoption was not valid. If death were the only thing in this world that tore families apart, wouldn't we rejoice with singing! A friend of mine was fond of saying, "The Devil is a liar." If God has placed in your heart the passion to adopt, and through prayer and petition and soul-searching you find that desire to be Spirit-driven, I don't think that He then requires us to feel guilt and self-doubt about following His path. Don't let the Devil lie to you about God's leading. Also don't blindly follow emotional heart-strings sob stories about orphanages you have not done due diligence about, but bottom line, there are children in this world in need of families for all sorts of complicated and convoluted reasons. If God has led you to provide a home for one or some of them, do it with all your heart and to the best of your ability.
Cindy - May 14th, 2013 at 7:42 PM
So good to see others who have compassion for birth mothers whose children have been removed by DHHS. The two children we have had as foster children for almost two years and whom we are adopting, have a birth mother who absolutely loves them to the moon and back. I am constantly faced with the guilt of knowing that SHE should be the children's mother, but was perhaps not given a long enough time or enough support to learn and change.
Shari - May 15th, 2013 at 3:17 AM
While I hear your concern for the birth mother...as a mom of 12 kids , 6 of whom were foster children that eventually were adopted...there are some things that can't be fixed... a birth mother's problems are sometimes overwhelming & the children are the ones who pay the biggest price of being in limbo. it was noteworthy how relived our children were when the adoption was finalized & they had a permanent home & family. one of our daughters told me that she loved her birth mom & liked to visit her but she didn't want to live with her....we have found some peace in the continuing relationship we have with our children's birth families after adoption
Amanda - May 14th, 2013 at 8:20 PM
Yes! This: My biggest heartbreak as an adoptive mom of two children through DHS is to hear other believers belittle their birth mother (or others like her) as lazy, drug-addicted, good for nothing, worth nothing to anyone anywhere types.

My heart hurts every time I hear a statement against our boys' birth mom. I was actually comforted by your words here, LaRissa, to know we are not alone in this place!
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Erin Beth - May 14th, 2013 at 10:05 PM
I'm so thankful for Jen for writing this and also for you LaRissa, for bringing up the issues in domestic adoption. I had a mid-adoption crisis before we were matched with our son (now 6 mos old). The dark reality of adoption just became so clear to me at one point that I was totally overwhelmed and left work in the middle of the day in tears. I went to a friend's house and explained everything I was feeling. *Were we wrong all along about wanting to grow our family through adoption? How could I be sure our child's birth mom was making the best decision for her child? How could I be sure the agency was honest? How would I have all these conversations?* We prayed that my husband and I would be matched with a family who had no other options but adoption and that it would be clear to us when it was right (well, as right as it could be). Two weeks later we got the call that began the journey with our son and his first family. Without telling too much of his story, I will say his mother had no other options. In fact, we were the only family with our agency willing to be matched with his momma. She had no idea who her biological family was, had no one related to her to raise him and if she didn't make an adoption plan, our son would have ended up in Foster Care at birth. Not to say there isn't a larger, systematic problem here, that would have prevented her from placing our son for adoption. There absolutely is. She aged out of the foster care system herself (and all that entails). But, even if we had given her all the resources available on the planet, it's unlikely she could have raised him. Ugh, I hate adoption about as much as I love it. We have tried to keep contact with her and keep communication open but it's not working out. I will keep trying as best I can so I can always tell my son I did. But, it all just breaks my heart. All of it. I do not think I would ever adopt domestically again, unless a baby is left abandoned or we go through the Foster Care system. I was sickened by how much of the domestic adoption world is geared towards infertile couples (I'm not implying anything judgey about couples who adopt because of infertility issues) and how much of the process is about you getting what you want as an adoptive parent. I think my agency was annoyed with my constant push-back on things like a "Dear Birth Mother Letter" etc. We finalized my son's adoption on Friday and stopped by our agency to say hello. There was a pregnant woman in one of the rooms who I could see through the glass doors. I wanted to run into the room and tell her I believed she could raise her baby. I left that day feeling horrible...
Monika - May 15th, 2013 at 2:05 AM
LaRissa - This is exactly the point of view from which I come from. I relinquished my daughter at birth to an open adoption - not because of addiction issues or anything else, and certainly not because I was forced to do so. But my heart absolutely breaks to see children languishing in foster care, and I wonder about all the Christians who are so eager to adopt "orphans" (and they really don't know if these children really are orphans) from other countries but won't even touch helping an actual orphan here in the United States. Corruption is rife in the industry as a whole (though like Jen, said, it's not everywhere) because adoption is EXTREMELY profitable. The "almighty dollar" drives coercive behaviors both here and abroad.
Jolene - May 15th, 2013 at 2:41 PM
Adoption is such a personal choice, there really is no need - or benefit - to judging whether one family chooses to parent a child from abroad or domestically. Everyone I know with a heart for orphans has a heart for ALL orphans, regardless of nationality. The circumstances that lead us to adopt from one place or another are as complicated as the circumstances that lead one to choose one spouse over another.
Hannah - May 16th, 2013 at 9:33 PM
We've adopted through the US foster system and internationally (both special needs adoptions) and it really is a personal decision with many, many variables that make it impossible for most people to fully understand. Our first child was our foster son, who we adopted after 2 years of being up in the air about whether he would be reunified with his birth family. It is no simple thing to parent a child with your whole heart, knowing that that the child may be only temporarily with you. We went on to have 3 biological children, and then decided to adopt again. We were told that unless we wanted to do foster care, we could not adopt a child under 8 in our state (these children are being adopted by their foster parents or relatives.) At that time we wanted to maintain birth order in our family, so we decided to adopt internationally. My husband and I wouldn't mind doing foster care again, but we didn't feel it was in the best interest of our young children at home (especially our son who was adopted) to allow them to attach to children who may well be reunited with their first families. So you see, it's not as simple as it seems. And, children are children, no matter where they live. We are looking into older child adoption (in the US) at this time. Sadly, by no fault of their own, the children who are languishing often have issues that require more than good intentions to parent (as Jen said.) We want to be fully prepared to parent another hurting child before we jump into this, so we are taking it very slowly, it will probably be years before we are ready, due to having so many little ones at home already.
JMale - May 15th, 2013 at 2:43 PM
If I may, I add my "Amen" here! I so appreciate the courageous and sensitive discussion in place and in particular to include domestic adoption. We adopted 3 older (ages 8-15) children through foster care and while I recognize the state's efforts to reunite, I honestly feel that there could have and should have been a different system in order to have a different outcome. I wonder what might have been if the children could have been placed WITH their mother in a caring, nurturing and therapeutic foster home. The children would be safe, cared for and provided for. The mother could be 'mothered' as needed and would receive therapy to help her heal addictions, abuses, etc. that she had suffered. She would receive job training and placement. By lesson and example she would learn parenting skills. The children would receive their care from their mother building trust. Would this be expensive? YES. But when I think of the resources spent for foster care, courts, adoption, and afterwards, I believe in the long run, it would cost LESS. Would it require a new way of thinking? Yes. As things are now, the children are the ones who have to adapt and deal with immense losses. Would it be difficult? Yes! But the consequences are more difficult to deal with and they last forever! Would this be for every situation? Absolutely not. I am so grateful that my children heard compassion for their birthmom, and now as adults have a good relationship with both of us. As a mom, is this hard? No... parenting is all about doing our best to bring up healthy, happy functioning children. It should ALWAYS be about the children, not about us.
Becca - May 16th, 2013 at 9:30 AM
I love this. And totally agree, as someone who works with the families that often end up having their kids taken away by DFCS.
Gitta - August 30th, 2014 at 7:45 AM
Bet - May 14th, 2013 at 1:10 PM
Thank you for writing this. It needs to be said. We have to go to the tough places, no matter where they take us. And we cannot create an industry that leads to child trafficking and family separation. God's plan for all of us is a family first, not at the expense of first families.
Rachel - May 14th, 2013 at 1:11 PM
We NEED to talk about this. When we started with adoption #1, I thought any agency with "Christian" in the name meant it was an ethical agency WRONG. Three adoptions later, I know there's so much corruption in the domestic infant adoption "industry." I remind the families I work with that adoption is a BUSINESS for almost every agency, not a ministry. Adoption ethics needs to be talked about, because as Christians, we are held accountable for our actions!
Shayna - May 14th, 2013 at 1:22 PM
Jen, thank you. Your statement, "most of us don%u2019t pursue the kids there ARE; we pursue the kids we WANT" absolutely broke my heart and brought two thoughts to mind...

1) It makes us question our motives for adoption and ask ourselves why we are adopting. Is for us - to get that child we've always wanted, to fill a void or to be a "good Christian" - or is it for them - to minister to the children who are abused, hurting, neglected or suffering loss?
2) Adoption is such a work of redemption. I think that too many times, we have a very one-sided view of redemption - choosing to look at its beauty and glory while forgetting the literal blood and sweat and tears involved. May we not shrink away from this or turn away from the kids who are/have been in hurt places.

May we see the kids there ARE and be willing to get in the trenches for them.
Steve - May 14th, 2013 at 1:23 PM

I suggest you check out CasaViva (http://www.casaviva.org/). Their mission is to strengthen families in Latin America so that orphanages can become a thing of the past. Their focus is on reuniting "orphans" with family or extended family and helping those families cope with the struggles and trials of life so they can stay together.

Another organization that is focused on helping families stay together is Americas Redemption System (ARS) (http://arsystem.org/). They function similar to World Vision and other "sponsorship" organizations, except that you sponsor an entire family for $200 per month for two years. The family receives education and training and other forms of relational and vocational assistance to help them become self-sufficient within two years.

I am a personal friend of the founder of ARS and have had the opportunity to meet and listen to the founder of CasaViva. Both are top-notch organizations that are doing pioneering work in the area of Orphan Prevention.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 6:49 PM
Love the family sponsorship angle! Brilliant!
becky - May 14th, 2013 at 1:25 PM
This is one of the few posts I have read lately that didn't make my blood pressure sky rocket. thank you for writing about this and reminding people IA is not ALL corrupt. We adopted our youngest child from ET and we got the lovely joy of enduring corruption from our US Embassy. it was fun times let me tell you. during that horrific experience and ever since I was introduced to the world of "Christians are causing a harvesting market" etc. My agency was part of a ministry organization and was and is cream of the crop. my friend lived in ET many years working in our agency's orphanage. maybe the corruption ocurrs in specific areas, but to this day my friend is so baffled by the claims that children (even babies) are being harvested. they were bombarded with relinquished and abandonsd children and couldn't even place the children they had let alone even more. I know better than to think it never happens. but you are right- we need to talk about it. but we need to make sure that while we are relaying stories of abuse, we need to share that its not all bad. Otherwise we scare off potential adoptive parents. the people who have good stories, the missionaries and locals who have good stories are not the ones calling you or all over social media. I just appreciate your words here. the decline in people adopting internationally is declining every year. I'm not sure we need it continue in that direction.
Shasta - May 14th, 2013 at 9:23 PM
Love this Becky. Thank you for sharing this from ET. I've worked in Haiti for over 10 years and even in my early years before I ever thought about my own adoptions, we were bombarded on every trip with people trying to "give" us babies or actually just leaving them with us thinking we could or would take them to "Miami".

When I hear claims that most babies must be coming from coerced moms I just don't get why some people think that way as I've never seen or experienced it. I've learned from research that yes, a baby demand creates a baby supply, however that supply can be met, but to make it appear as if that is the norm and most babies are "supplied" to meet the adoption demand isn't a fair assessment.
Dawn - May 14th, 2013 at 1:26 PM
I read the comment by "Gina" who said, "love your heart...wish we could sit down for coffee." I second that! Profound writing. Thank you.
Holly - May 14th, 2013 at 1:27 PM
Thank you so much, this was fantastic! And it needs to be said. Thank you for your courage and bravery, I personally know it can bring opposition. There is a small link up on my blog of others who are talking about ethics in adoptions as well. We all need to "come to the table".
Lori - May 14th, 2013 at 1:29 PM
We adopted 2 older girls from Ethiopia. We were surprised to find out that they also have two able bodied birth parents. I wonder and grieve. It breaks my heart!
Brittany - May 14th, 2013 at 1:29 PM
This is similar to what Steve Wilkin and Brian Fikkert talk about in their book "When Helping Hurts" (http://whenhelpinghurts.org). If you watch the little video on the page it makes sense- good intentions are not enough. Also, our church has partnered with Watoto in Africa- they are helping to build up their communities by raising the orphans as a family. It's a great mission. (http://www.watoto.com/)
suzannah | the smitten word - May 14th, 2013 at 1:29 PM
thank you so much for writing this. i was so disheartened by some of the most vocal evangelical responses/dismissals recently to concerns raised in kathryn joyce's the child catchers, and i so appreciate your wading in. we need to have this conversation. we need to help in ways that honor God and those made in his image.
Dawn - May 14th, 2013 at 1:33 PM
"There are very real orphans all over the earth, but most of us don%u2019t pursue the kids there are; we pursue the kids we want, and these countries know the score. Older kids stay on waiting children lists, while the baby line is hundreds deep."

This is the truth that, as Christ followers, we have to face. If what we really cared about was giving loving homes to children who are without, than the US alone wouldn't have 107,000 children legally free for adoption, just waiting for someone to care. It's not only countries that know the score, but as a former foster child who was never adopted, I can assure you that these kids know the score as well.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 6:51 PM
Oh, Dawn. My heart. You are so right. This is such a painful reality. Blessings to you. You maybe didn't get adopted, but you are just as precious and valuable as any person ever was.
Deb - May 14th, 2013 at 8:12 PM
Dawn -- BLESSINGS on you. Speaking Truth. Amen.
Lanie - May 15th, 2013 at 2:53 AM
Thank you, Dawn!
suzy - May 14th, 2013 at 1:36 PM
Thank you for finally opening this can of worms. You have a huge following, and with that a huge responsibility. I remember when you were going to Uganda, hoping and wishing you could meet Mark and Karen Riley (they tried to meet you, but to no avail). We talked about the huge following you had and how nice it would be if you touched on adoption ethics. All adoptive parents from Africa started on the same journey, you know the one that you tell yourself, "I could save at least one". Well, hopefully most of us have learned now, that orphanages create orphans and that alternative care and family resettlement should take priority. What if each of us instead of adopting, offered that 25K plus to help keep famlies together. Would we be willing to do that??? Tough stuff. Please, if you haven't already gotten involved with Uganda ethics, get in touch with Mark Riley and his work in Uganda. Also, I am sure you have seen Mercy, Mercy, the documentary about Ethiopian adoption. Thanks again, and yes, do not lead your followers in this crazy save an orphan movement, but rather please enlighten them on the truth about international adoptions and familiy preservations. africanpromisefoundation.org
Mandi - May 14th, 2013 at 1:36 PM
Thank you for this, Jen! While I long to adopt, my husband is not yet at that place, but I feel like this series (and I'm hoping especially Part 2) can give me some very real alternatives to adoption that our family can participate in instead. My heart's breaking for the families who have lost babies to this corruption, and I appreciate you delving into a tough topic!
BGK - May 14th, 2013 at 1:38 PM
Dear Becky,
No one has painted IA as "all bad," but there is enough bad and potential for bad that we who care for orphans AND WIDOWS (vulnerable children and their mothers) simply must listen. Deut. 27:19, Mark 12:40.

While there is ample evidence that some Christian agencies are ethical, there is also plenty of evidence that others lie. I cannot be complicit in possibly harming a vulnerable woman or fatherless child, even though my intent is good- so we sponsor.
Cyn - May 14th, 2013 at 1:39 PM
I found this so hard to read but so necessary. We adopted domestically and we have a relationship with my son's birth mother who we adore very much for so many reasons not the least of which is that she gave birth to the young man that is a son to me and to her. But yes, we could have chosen to help her rather than adopt her child. I feel sad that I may be part of continuing the cycle rather than part of the solution. Thank you for starting this conversation.
K - May 14th, 2013 at 1:42 PM
I am glad to be reading more posts like these. We fostered and then adopted our two foster sons who could not reunify with their parents. When we started our training for foster care, I wanted to make sure that kids who came into our home were there because they had been removed for legitimate reasons (abuse and/or neglect) and not poverty. I don't think poverty should ever be the reason behind adoption. Two of the children we fostered were able to return to their birth mom (who fully deserved them) after she was given time to get her life in order. We need to focus on reunification (when it is possible) in both the US foster care system as well as international adoption.
Cary - May 14th, 2013 at 1:43 PM
Bless you and your hard words. Bless the cry for children and not for adoptive parents. Bless the people who are trying so hard to be Jesus to the least of these, both children and their first families. May God continue to open our eyes to what He sees.
Shasta Grimes - May 14th, 2013 at 1:43 PM
As an adoptee who is adopting I am thankful I was NOT reunified with my parents as I would not be who I am or where I am today. I don't presume to know what God does but the journey through adoption has created the person I am today with the passion for adoption that I have.

I am on board and agree that we must all be educated in adoptions, how they work and what is ethical or not. My BIGGEST issue, as I am heavily involved in Haiti adoptions right now, is the fact that some of the families on a mission to FIGHT fraud and corruption, who are accusing agencies and directors of such and even removing children are finding that their kids bio parents were NOT coerced and their adoptions ARE legal and legit. But in their haste to fight what they thought might possibly be a corrupt situation they have created chaos for other families. Joining a crusade to fight injustice is great if you are certain you have the facts but when you have a "feeling" something "might be wrong" then you need to be sure before you go in "armed with more than good intentions" that you are fighting true fraud and deception.
Stefanie - May 14th, 2013 at 2:02 PM
So blessed by your comment, Shasta. As an adoptive mom, it is my hope that my children one day share your perspective that their life, although marred by the sin of a fallen world, was and is in the hands of the One who gave His life for them.
We humans try as we might to 'make it right' - whether through orphan care, adoption, fighting for reunification, funding surgeries and foster care - but the truth is that only He can. Our eyes must be on Him at all times and in all ways, especially when we'd rather shut them.
Amanda - May 14th, 2013 at 2:32 PM
I think maybe you have missed Jen's key point: "Discussing unethical adoptions, I am not saying always; I am saying sometimes, and if there is a sometimes in the mix, then we must go on high alert. We have to. We cannot simply hope we have no part in the sometimes%u2026

%u2026we must insist on the never."

Families that remove their adopted children from orphanages or agencies where there is SOME corruption are insisting on the "never" that Jen is speaking of. It makes no difference if that particular child's birthparent was coerced or not, it matters that SOME children's birthparents were coerced. Don't try to shut down the voices of people who are concerned with these issues simply because of fear of "chaos" for other adoptive families. Adoptive families have a role in adoption but rights of first families and children should always come first.
Shasta - May 14th, 2013 at 7:20 PM
I'm not trying to "shut down" the voices of anyone but we have to stop the extremes I'm seeing happen when people are "on a mission" to save first families and no one is communicating or working together.

Insist on the never but at what cost? There are a lot of "rights" that need to be considered here in addition to the bio moms. Yes, the rights of first families are important but they are NOT more important than the true orphans rights that are getting caught up in "chaos" of these accusation and attempts the change the system. In the rush to save these first families at any and all costs people ARE negatively affecting other innocent people and families in the adoption process. I do not disagree with trying to keep families together. I don't disagree with making sure adoptions are ethical but I do not believe it's right to elevate some "rights" over others. We have to find a balance. We have to communicate. We have to work together.
R. - May 14th, 2013 at 7:33 PM
The balance is this. Tell the truth. Always tell the truth. If telling the truth means that something unethical is suspended or exposed (thereby hurting people that had nothing to do with it) the truth is still the truth. Like William Penn said, %u201CRight is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.%u201D

Shasta - May 14th, 2013 at 9:13 PM
Oh yes, I agree. Always tell the truth. I'm not saying don't do that. I'm more concerned about the groups with public cries against all international adoptions (suddenly seems to be a huge push against this) or those working in countries where they go in "guns blazing" to fight what they perceive to be questionable or unethical practices that then interrupt adoptions when those things could be handled differently.

Truth in adoptions: this is not an easy road to walk or conversation to have but it does need to happen. TRUTH at times can be interpreted both ethically and unethically.
Here's an example....In it's most simple form, an example that yes, could go a million ways... but is simple for the sake of just being an example:

A baby is found in a trash pile, near death. This baby has a family but they chose to put the baby out to die.

For the orphanage that rescues that baby the truth to them is that baby is safer in the orphanage, alive because someone other than the bio parents cared enough to meet the needs of that child.

For the "family first" advocate the truth is that the orphanage needs to give the baby back to the bio family and provide a way for them to keep that baby. By not doing so the orphanage doesn't care about family preservation and is only money hungry hoping to adopt that baby out.

So what is the TRUTH here? Is the baby truly orphaned? Is the orphanage fueling corruption by allowing this baby to be adopted instead of finding sponsors for the family? Would it be fair for adoptive parents to rally against this orphanage claiming they don't care about first families and claim they are obtaining children in unethical ways?

See how the truth can go either way depending on the perspective you see it from? I only argue these things because I'm on both sides of the "ethical adoption war" right now in Haiti. I am adopting (older kids who lived in and non-adopting orphanage for 4 and 9 years so I at least don't worry about baby-buying/selling issues), I have worked in Haiti and with orphanages for over 10 years, work with hundreds of adopting families, dozens of directors and facilitators and several agencies that have been attacked with rumors and false accusations so I have seen all the "truths" out there from every angle. It's not always clear what the truth is and I've seen people not fight for what is right when they should be beating the doors down and I've seen people shoot others to near death with nothing more than a rumor and a hunch that were never proven.

I want to do whatever I can to help support ethical adoptions. I feel that I am only involved in things that are right but if you (not you personally, just in general, people out there) don't feel that my right is right, it doesn't mean I'm wrong. It means there's a disconnect somewhere and that's why I'm pushing for more communication and cooperation in the fight for ethical adoptions because what seems so simple the label as truth, right, wrong, and ethical is not always that simple depending on where you are standing, how much information you know, your passions, the "goggles' you wear to see and perceive things and your motivation. Just as with the example above, without knowing every back detail we can't make accusations on motivations or label this orphanage as anti bio family or corrupt but those are exactly the types of things I'm seeing happen in the adoption world under the umbrella of "ethical adoption reform".
Another Adoptee - June 7th, 2013 at 12:37 PM
The answer to your scenario, as the answer to almost any scenario that could be created, is "It depends."
The first, and most important question -- while keeping the child safe and cared for -- is WHY did the family put the child out? The answer to THAT question leads to every other question that must be answered before a permanent decision is made.
The danger, on both sides, is to assume the answer to that question is obvious and proceed based on assumption rather than fact.
Should the child be adopted? Maybe. Should the child be reunified with the natural family? Maybe.
Notice I haven't said which way I 'lean' (and rest assured, I do lean one way... we all do... to say otherwise is naive and untrue)?
I would make the choice that I lean AWAY FROM in a heartbeat if that choice was supported by the facts (were I in a position to make the choice at all).

I agree with you -- communication is key. I do not believe all adoptions are wrong, nor that all adoptions are right. That is true (for me) no matter what kind of adoption (international, domestic, public, private, etc.) we are talking about. I wish, fervently, that there were not "sides". I wish things like "best interests" and "ethics" were easy to define, understood by everyone, and always the same. But, as granddad said, "If wishes were fishes, we'd all have a fry." In the meantime, keep on doing your good work (as I see it). :-)
The one caution, if I may be so bold, that I would give to you is be aware of your own biases (and you do have them, we all do) and check in with them often. Let your biases, because you must, INFORM your decisions but do not let them DECIDE for you. Above all, please do not believe (or say) that you are unbiased. That is simply not true. You are biased. Your biases are evident. Be aware. Be wary. You'll do just fine.
Perhaps my biases are evident as well... I shall re-read. :-)

Another adult adoptee
Alicia Carlson - May 14th, 2013 at 7:52 PM
Shasta, I totally agree with you. I believe balance is in order. Just as the pendulum swings to the "save the poor orphan" camp, it swings to "save the poor first family." I have worked as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in foster care- advocating for childrens' rights, and my husband and I were foster parents of newborns for 6 years. I've seen bio families rights triumph at the cost of the physical, emotional and mental health of children who's rights were ignored because they "belonged to the parents."

Adoption is complicated. But, to pursue adoption reform for ethical responsibility is a good thing. But then, define "ethical." Get everyone to agree on "ethical." To scream out that international adoptions are corrupt- that is a path that needs careful treading.

Overgeneralizing is not a good thing. Be specific. Redifine "ethical." State facts, pursue facts. Promote reform. And remember that we live in a sinful world. We can control our our actions, but not the actions of sending countries.
@OdysseyMamaC - May 14th, 2013 at 8:37 PM
We recently completed foster certification to adopt a teenage girl. She moved in last week! :-) Anyway, as we've entered the foster world, we've become aware of case after case in which a child's right to safety and a loving family was secondary to a parent's right. It's not up to children to wait in limbo indefinitely while parents are afforded endless chances to get it together. I agree that it's complicated, and while we must work for ethical adoptions, I agree with Shasta that one set of rights doesn't necessarily trump all others. All are important.
@OdysseyMamaC - May 14th, 2013 at 8:41 PM
Shasta, thanks so much for your input. Just as we need to listen to the voices of adult adoptees who are hurt and call for reform, we should listen to the adoptees with stories of what went right. Your voice is no less valid than the others, and I get irritated with the blogs sometimes that attempt to discredit pro-adoption adoptees as "drinking the adoption Kool-aid." Prayers with you on your adoption journey, and thanks again for your input.
J - May 14th, 2013 at 2:37 PM
I completely, one hundred percent agree with Amanda.
Noel - May 15th, 2013 at 12:02 AM
Totally agree with you, Shasta! Yes, we need to be aware and do what we can but at the same time, should the child suffer in the meantime? Our son spent 19 months in the orphanage in Haiti with no one coming to get him. Despite this and having been in process for a year with him, when the earthquake hit, UNICEF, with all their clout and power, were threatening the ability for us to take our son home. It was dire - he was 2 miles from the epicenter of the quake.
He needed out of the situation. And I understand the corruption. I also know the fate of unwanted children in Haiti - child slavery. I did a presentation on the "supply and demand" of orphans for my masters program. Every person needs to determine what they can handle. Some people line up waiting for babies and others adopt broken 16 yr. olds from the foster system. For us, it was a black male toddler. Black boys are least likely to be adopted, but we did not feel able to deal with significant health issues or attachment issues seen in older children. So we adopted the most needed child within our limits. And I DON'T believe ALL children belong with their birth parents. That is a problem with the foster system, at least in CA, the parents get so many chances, the kid is so screwed up by the "parents" by the time they are able to be adopted, that often never feel loved. And the uncertainty of taking a kid into your family with the chance of the child being taken away - some people can't handle that. Anyway, yes, we need to be aware but I don't agree that "Our children were meant for their birth families, the way every child ever born is."
Christy - May 14th, 2013 at 1:45 PM
Thank you for this post, and for the one that is to come. As an adoptive mother of 2 children who have a surviving birth mother in Ghana and as the mother who suffered a failed adoption due to ethics concerns, THANK YOU!!! Here's a small piece of our story of unethical adoption: http://ghanakeepgrowing.blogspot.com/2012/12/uncovering-truth.html
Patty - May 14th, 2013 at 1:55 PM
Yes! Thank you so much for giving a voice to this. It's something our family has been caught in the middle of for the past few years with our China adoptions. It's been a nightmare. You wouldn't believe the stories I've heard, not to mention our own. Thank you thank you. It is a lonely place when you are fighting this fight and Christians are often the ones standing against it, but I will continue to fight for truth. This is a complicated issue with many layers but for every corrupt adoption taking place there is a true orphan who has lost their chance at a family. Something has to change.
Teresa - May 14th, 2013 at 2:02 PM
"God did not intend these children for my wealthy home and accidentally put them in Ethiopian wombs."

Can I please hear an AMEN? The idea that God caused a teenager to become pregnant so I could be a mom or a Chinese woman to have to choose between two daughters and abandon one so I could be a mom to her child makes God out to be unbelievably cruel. That is not the God I love and serve.

What I do believe is that God has created a plan B for these children who are legitimately available for adoption. He only needs willing hearts. If the hearts are not willing, do not let guilt coerce you into adoption. In a perfect world, no child would be abandoned, orphaned, abused, or neglected. Sadly, we do not live in a perfect world.

My fear for a number of years is that by highlighting the orphan crisis, we create more "illegitimate orphans" due to the corruption you talk about here. The love of money corrupts and creates trafficking. In addition, it raises the stakes for the amount of money to "ransom" children out of orphanages and temporary care.

I know a missionary in Cambodia that we support through our church. He and his wife run several orphanages and those orphans are under the best care possible! They not only have terrific facilities, they are getting a tremendous education and have the finest computers in the area! Additionally, he has found a way to have the widows come and help in the orphanages and they help with the children. A win-win! The local village children are amazed that these orphans have better access to a quality education than they do.

He is raising the next generation of children who will impact their own country. He has no intention of opening his orphanage up to the adoption community. I think he is on to something....
Keri - May 14th, 2013 at 4:15 PM
I agree!

Amanda - May 14th, 2013 at 10:26 PM
"the finest computers in the area" are not a substitute for a mom and a dad.
Rachael - May 14th, 2013 at 11:18 PM
I am glad that these children in Cambodia, for whom adoption hasn't been an option for about a decade, are getting the best care possible. But I think we deceive ourselves when we begin to think that fancy computers and a great education can be a replacement for a family. Even the best caretakers in the world are still just doing a job. They cannot provide the stability, sense of belonging, and emotional connection of loving parents and families. It has been proven over and over that even the best institutional care affects emotional development of children in profoundly negative ways. For orphaned children with NO other option, a good orphanage is better than nothing. But its not good enough. EVERY child deserves a family, and if they cannot be with their biological family for some reason then they should have a second chance through adoption.
June - May 15th, 2013 at 4:33 AM
Hear, hear, Rachael.

J - May 16th, 2013 at 2:17 PM
So true--a permanent family is best, I agree.....BUT, please research WHY Cambodia was shut down for adoptions. The evidence and research is there. Reform is needed so badly.
Erin - May 17th, 2013 at 11:23 PM
Amen, Rachael.
Rosalyn - November 3rd, 2015 at 10:28 PM
I agree that every child deserves a family, but for these orphans in a very good orphanage and a possibly promising future in Cambodia, they may well have family there -cousins, siblings, grandparents, people they know who do not have the resources to take them in but are still "family." Coming to the U.S. as older children they would lose their language, culture, friendships, everything. They may well struggle academically as they switch to a different language at an older age. I say this as someone who adopted an 8 year old from Ukraine. We have found her family (her parents are not alive but she has aunts and uncles and grandparents) and we found two siblings both adopted to different countries. They had nothing in their orphanages -ours was in a special needs orphanage - but had our child been in a good living situation, well educated and able to stay with relatives on the weekend or have them visit, that may have been a good option. I am only glad now that we have reunited her with her family members and that they can keep in touch over the internet so that she is not cut off from everything she knew.
Suz - May 14th, 2013 at 2:03 PM

As a US "birth"mother that surrendered her first born child after five months in a maternity home, one thousand miles from her family, I say bravo to many of the sentiments you share here.

As that same mother that was told she and her family would be sued by the baby broker that stood to profit from the sale of her unborn child if she kept her child, I say bravo.

Adoption - both US domestic and international - is indeed a business and many are profiting from the "placement" of those poor "orphaned" children. They are taking advantage of vulnerable families - both birth and prospective adoptive. - with the children paying the highest price of all.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 6:53 PM
Devastating. Thank you for shining the light right here at home, too. This is a tragedy and shouldn't have happened.
Lea - May 14th, 2013 at 8:18 PM
I'd really appreciate it if you would reply to Shasta's comment above, which is where my concern lies- children benefit from being loved and deserve a family and there are children whose legitimate adoptions are being threatened - where do those children fall in these "scales" that are being erected?!
Mary - May 14th, 2013 at 8:26 PM
As another mother who lost a child here in the US, thank you Suz, and you Jen for shedding light on this. Adoption is big business and there are many of us who have suffered because of it. The unethical practices used in adoption must stop- it is heartbreaking for me to know that what happened to myself and my child need never have happened.

Suz is absolutely correct our children pay the highest price of all. In my life and in my family it's the "gift that keeps on giving." Profit above all seems to be the rule of the day with agencies and lawyers. PAP's, nautral mothers and their children are all hurt becauase of this.
misty - May 14th, 2013 at 2:08 PM
We are adopting thru foster care. It is not much different. Who is going to walk along side these birth parents who lack basic life skills & have never experienced a healthy family. You don't have to go far to find children taken from their parents. It may be in a different way, but I can't help but think: What would happen if WE were more involved with our neighbors. Be a neighbor, get involved, be Jesus to someone struggling with parenting. The statistics are heartbreaking. These children deserve love and their basics needs met. And these birth parents deserve the education, if they are willing.
Anna - May 14th, 2013 at 2:08 PM
Yes. A million times, yes. Thank you for this. As an adoptive mom I have been struggling with the trending topic of adoption corruption. It reminds me of my friend who is working with She is Safe to end human trafficking. The "popular" side for people to give money to is rescuing women and she's finding it hard to get funding for the side that is her heart - trafficking prevention. The worst thing we can do is start throwing our money at issues that pull our heart strings without examining the whole issue and making sure we are working for holistic healing. I'm looking forward to your second post.
Cindy - May 14th, 2013 at 2:09 PM
I have soooooo much to say.......but I will say, we work with a baby house in Uganda who only takes in babies literally abandoned - some in garbage bags, some left by the side of the road, clearly abandoned. We also host a sponsorship program with 300 kids in a small village outside Kampala- as part of that partnership, we try to help do job training and help families earn their own incomes. We are helping them start a bakery and this Sept I plan to eat an awesome slice of bread in that village! We do value families and want to see only true orphans adopted, but $$$$$ has indeed muddied the waters! Praying that we CAN help without hurting!
Katie Ganshert - May 14th, 2013 at 2:10 PM
This has been the reality we've been living in as we move forward with our adoption from DR Congo. The more impoverished the country, the greater risk for corruption. DR Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world, so that should tell you what we're up against. It's been a hard, emotional journey and sometimes it feels like we'll never have another kiddo in our home. But God's opened our eyes, so we are moving forward with much caution. Honestly, sometimes I wish I didn't know the things I know. Hoping to someday do work in DR Congo geared toward family preservation. I had the privilege of being in the country just two weeks ago. It is a beautiful, broken place filled with beautiful, resilient people.
Tabitha Lovell - May 22nd, 2013 at 6:33 PM
Amen! I agree with this post and I am also happy to see that you (Katie) are thinking about this ministry for the DRC. I would love to join up with you on this issue. I think that the Lord's same heart that beats for adoption also beats for preservation of these broken families. I can't see that we can care about one and not the other if we are beating with His heartbeat on these issues.
Carla - May 14th, 2013 at 2:12 PM
This post is so important on so many levels, Thank You!! I am reminded in the not so distant past about the Russian government using their very lucrative adoptions as a form of political currency...so very, very sad, and thinking they are not the only country to do this.
Sara - May 14th, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Is there anyway you could clarify this statement,

"With much of the adoption pipeline supplied by corruption and confusion, we cannot possibly claim God%u2019s sovereignty. We need to call it what it is: an injustice God would never endorse."

It's unclear to me if you are questioning the sovereignty of God because of corruption and confusion, or if you intended to imply we are comfortable claiming God's sovereignty and remaining idle regarding this specific topic?

Thank you!
Jp - May 14th, 2013 at 4:43 PM
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 6:58 PM
Sure...it was unclear now that I re-read it. I meant we cannot be comfortable claiming God's sovereignty in the face of corruption. I believe God can absolutely make something beautiful of the mess, but I don't believe He sovereignly causes the mess. I don't think he intends relinquishment or abuse or trauma or institutionalization just so we can have these kids. Make sense?
Sara - May 14th, 2013 at 7:32 PM
Yes, thank you SO MUCH for clarifying!!
A.B. - May 14th, 2013 at 8:00 PM
Jen. So much truth in this statement.
Ben - May 14th, 2013 at 2:24 PM
But what of the Gospel? I have been separated from my family because I believe the Gospel... but I feel that I have gained everything. Is our mission to keep families together? What about in families where they'll never hear the Gospel? What is of more value? Could God not be using any of this to His Glory? Salvation requires a cost... to follow Jesus means leaving affections for things of this earth. My adopted son will be much better off with me... but it's not because of my wealth.. it's because in my home he'll hear the Gospel where he probably wouldn't have with his birth parents. Just some additional thoughts. :-)
Karen - May 14th, 2013 at 3:56 PM
Ben - we can not use the furthering of the Gospel message as a reason or an excuse to remove children from their birth families. God can and will use anything to His glory, but we who follow Jesus should not use the ends to justify means that would break His heart. To determine that a child will never hear the Gospel in their birth country truly limits the power of the message. My 6 year old China daughter is just grappling with wanting to be with her birth mom, but she also told me "if I was still in China, I wouldn't have the freedom to worship Jesus". I explained to her that her God loves her so much - that even if she was in China, He would have pursued he.
Ben - May 14th, 2013 at 5:06 PM
The Gospel message is the only reason to do anything. I'm not saying it's a reason to remove kids from birth families. I'm saying restoring kids to their birth families without the Gospel is not helping either. You are lying to you daughter if you tell her the Gospel message would have surely got to her in China. The reality is that people die every day without knowing it.
Dave - May 14th, 2013 at 6:11 PM
Then Go to China instead. You don't need to bring China to you. Simple solution.
Suz - May 14th, 2013 at 6:19 PM
Thank you Dave and Karen. I was confused by Ben's statements and was wondering if it was just me. I am not a Christian so I assumed my own ignorance was the root of my confusion. I wondered if God and Gospel only applied to Americans? Does God not share his message with China or Ethiopia or other parts of the world? Is it only available in the US?
Esther - May 14th, 2013 at 7:17 PM
God's love for people is absolutely universal! Read "The Persecutor" for a wonderful testimony of how God reached through and transformed a man's life, even in a closed country. And he was an orphan, as a matter of fact!

"The Lord...is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)

E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. is on the heart of God. But not everyone will respond to Him.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 6:58 PM
Dave, good.
Ben - May 14th, 2013 at 7:32 PM
Yes, going is one way... but also bringing orphans to Christian homes is another way to spread the Gospel in hard to access places. If children are coming to know Christ through adoptions then why would we stop. God has used things that displeased Him for His glory in the past. Paul was unjustly put in prison but it only led to further spread the Gospel. Jesus was beaten and nailed to a cross but it led to the salvation of the world. Corruption exists in adoptions, but God can also use them for the spread of the Gospel. In the past year my wife has been to China and I have been to India spreading the Gospel. But I also choose to adopt. I could always question the truthfulness and intentions of the parties involved but I won't allow that to stop me from doing what God has called me to do. I'm not saying the Gospel is exclusive to Americans either. It seems odd that I'm having to defend the motive of sharing the Gospel through adoption on a Christian blog.
Andi - May 14th, 2013 at 8:09 PM
I don't believe that a loving God would call us to purposefully separate children from their families in His name. This is a scary and damaging practice. No one is saying that we should not live to spread His word wherever and however we can, but to cause pain in order to do it? I can't ever see that as true to the heart of God.
Ben - May 14th, 2013 at 8:16 PM
I don't know of any adopting parents who are purposefully separating children from their birth parents. So why are they getting criticized. I understand being intelligent about adoption but I've heard this argument used as an excuse to not adopt or to criticize those who are adopting. We'll never be able to erase sin in our world... the Gospel is the only thing that kills it. That was my original point. Empowering people to care for their own children only helps if the Gospel is present. Otherwise, we've given them nothing of any real value.
KatR - May 14th, 2013 at 8:20 PM
Not to mention the fact that it's immoral and disgusting to take someone else's child for the express purpose of spreading your religion.
Wendy - May 14th, 2013 at 8:12 PM
Dave, I think perhaps the reason that you find it odd to be defending the motive of sharing the Gospel through adoption is because you're not reading what's between your lines: The ends justify the means.
Do you really mean to say that God is pleased with human trafficking because after they're stolen they'll hear the Gospel? Whether you mean it or not, that's what it sounds like.
No one is suggesting that international adoption be halted. All Jen is saying here (forgive me if I'm not summarizing you well, Jen!) is that we have the obligation to ensure we're not participating in trafficking. If the orphans we adopt are TRUE orphans, then how wonderful it is for them to hear the Gospel. If they're not, they have a basic human right to be in their families, and if we want them to hear the Gospel, then we should GO to them. Jesus said "Go into all nations" not "tear them from their families and bring them into your own home."
Megan - May 14th, 2013 at 8:12 PM
You are not defending the motive of sharing the gospel through adoption... you are defending this idea that you have the right to take a child away from birth family because you are a Christian. Do you think God only cares about children hearing the gospel? Do you not think that God cares about mothers and fathers and grandparents and aunts and uncles hearing the gospel too? How would you be presenting the "gospel" to people who you just took their kid away from? If you are so concerned with more people hearing the gospel how about you take the thousands of dollars you would spend on one adoption and give it to an organization that shares the gospel with entire families without having to tear them apart in the process.
Ben - May 14th, 2013 at 8:29 PM
I never said it was ok for Christians to take kids away from their families. Everyone has to give an account for their actions. But there's no way I'll ever know for sure that there wasn't some sinful motive involved in someone involved in our adoption.. should that stop me from adopting?
Tiffani - May 15th, 2013 at 12:20 AM
Lots of things should stop you from adopting, Ben, and your willingness to turn a blind eye to corruption in order to get what you want is at the top of the list. Coming in at a close second is your bigotry and self-importance that makes you think that your way of seeing the world is so far superior to any other way that you have deluded yourself into thinking that you have some divine right to have any child that might be raised by people who believe differently than you do. I truly hope you are unable to find a social worker willing to approve your home study, but sadly, people like you slip through the cracks all the time. If you ever do end up adopting, try to at least pretend you have a modicum of respect for "your" child's first family. P.S. it's people like you who give Christians a bad rap.
Ben - May 15th, 2013 at 4:23 AM
So much judgement on here. I'm not sure how many different ways I have to say I don't think it's ok for anyone to take a child from their first family. My whole point in all this was that adoptive parents cannot be completely sure sometimes that corruption is involved and I feel Jen lays up a heavy burden on her insistence of "never." But even if there has been corruption involved God can still use this crappy situation for the spread of the Gospel. The other point is that going to teach people how to be "good" is not really helping them. I think as Christians our highest aim is the spread of the Gospel. It wasn't even mentioned in the post. That was all I was saying and you guys want to make it sound like I'm saying it's ok to turn a blind eye. And my son is in India and was only born with 2 fingers on each hand and one leg. The government of India tried to offer the family assistance in caring for him but they still said no so I'm pretty sure I'm not tearing anyone from their first family. I think if you knew me Tiffani you might think differently... I must just be a bad communicator because clearly I'm not stating things in a way that reveals my heart on this matter.
Andi - May 15th, 2013 at 8:00 PM
I don't think "hearing the Gospel" trumps loving people where they are and for who they are. Throughout the New Testament Jesus meets again and again with "sinners", prostitutes, tax collectors, Pharisees; not once does he speak the Gospel to them. He loves them, gives them what they need, asks them to change their ways and moves on. *This* is the heart of the Gospel. Meeting needs, loving, caring, just being. It is through our actions that Jesus is seen and people become receptive to our teaching and beliefs.

I am an adoptive parent to two and cannot even think or fathom for a second that I would bring them into my family to evangelize them. I don't even think that's really what you are saying... but it sure sounds that way.
Ben - May 16th, 2013 at 4:19 AM
Andi, read Romans 10:14. Jesus doesn't preach the Gospel to them explicitly because His work had not yet been completed and it wouldn't make any sense. He does call them to believe in Him though and this is definitely part of the Gospel. It's not a call just to "change" one's ways. It requires a transformation on one's heart. This is why he tells Nicodemus "you must be born again." And Paul goes on to say "If anyone is in Christ (united with Him) He is a new creation." You can't be united with Christ by being a better person. Paul makes this clear throughout the scriptures. You must have faith in Christ, believing he died on the cross as a sacrifice for sins. Then repent and follow Him. I recommend you read "Gospel for Real Life" by Jerry Bridges. It's a great book that explores the riches of the Gospel. Paul tells the church at Corinth that it was of "first importance" (see 1 Corinthians 15:3) My concern is for the salvation of people we help. Just helping others is not enough... they must hear the Gospel. Otherwise from an eternal perspective we've given them nothing.
graceling - May 15th, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Ben, I'm so confused by what you are saying. What I am reading is that you feel it is okay to separate families (rather than trying to keep them together) if the child will receive the Gospel because of that separation. I also hear that preserving a family without giving them the Gospel is really no better and possibly worse than separating a child from their first family in a way that ends with them receiving the Gospel. Is that correct?
Ben - May 16th, 2013 at 4:27 AM
Graceling, I think I've probably stated I don't think it's ok to separate families like four times. I am giving a perspective that Jen doesn't mention. Lets say a child is separated unjustly but then that bad situation in their life leads to them hearing the Gospel because they have been adopted. I feel in cases like this they have gained everything. Because the greatness of knowing Christ surpasses anything of this earth, even family ties. Christ makes this clear. (See Matt. 10:34-36) In my reply to Andy above I make a case for why the Gospel is necessary. I hope this helps... I've been turned into a bit of a monster because of what people think I am saying. I don't think you can take an issue as big as this and not consider how the Gospel bears on it. Jen says they are haunted by thoughts of "what if" I don't God wants us going through life haunted. He wants us to have freedom and freedom only comes through the Gospel. For me this is great encouragement and I hope that for some adoptive parents who have been lied to during their process it can be as well.
Lauren - May 15th, 2013 at 7:53 AM
Your belief in the Gospel is what caused the separation from your family - you chose that path. You cannot know he would not have heard the Gospel with his first family. Salvation does require cost, but it's not your place to make that choice or that sacrifice for anyone but yourself. You can encourage your children toward Jesus, but to equate adoption trauma with the consenting self-sacrifice of following Christ as an adult or teen is grasping at straws. You are acting like missions work does not exist. I'd much prefer "my" child stay with their first family and hear the Gospel in a way that empowers them to bring Christ to more unbelievers in their home country. Adoption is not an appropriate route of evangelism.
Ben - May 15th, 2013 at 9:20 AM
Maybe I'm just in a bad place to be in this discussion. We are in the middle of an adoption and I have struggled so much with this idea that Sam, the little boy we want to adopt, should stay in his country. But I always come back to the fact that he will now get to know the redemption of Christ and love in our family. This may be a wrong motive in the eyes of some but I fell this is how valuable the Gospel is in a person's lfie. Paul counted everything as rubbish compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. I could beat myself up for the rest of my life wondering about the what ifs but I have to have faith that God has a plan and one day we will all be on our faces because of His glorious wisdom.
Melanie - May 16th, 2013 at 8:32 PM
As an adoptive mother of two, I find this so theologically problematic: I cannot fathom a God who would allow my two beautiful sons to burn in hell save that I adopted them into my white, western, privileged home. I believe in a God who works in ways far bigger than that, and who does not need privileged westerners to adopt children as a means of salvation. That's a colonialist impulse that I completely reject.
Ben - May 17th, 2013 at 9:36 AM
So, are you suggesting universalism? Do you find what I'm saying theologically problematic from a Biblical standpoint or from your own view of who God is? What are your thoughts on Romans 9?
Jean - May 31st, 2013 at 11:37 AM
Ben, I think you are using the promise of evangelism to justify your moving forward with your current adoption in the face of....something that is troubling you. I don't know you or your situation, so I can't identify what it is exactly. But if you are feeling guilty about taking "Sam" from this home country, or things are happening that you feel aren't right or true about Sam's situation, or anything else that feels wrong about this? Stop. Reflect. Pray. Do not hide behind evangelism as an excuse to tolerate doubt or potential injustice. Much is required of us, including much courage to face unpleasant truths.
June - May 14th, 2013 at 2:27 PM
I just recently started working for an extremely reputable Christian Adoption agency. Yes, what you say is true. The majority of American's who enter into international adoption primarily want healthy (or as healthy as possible) children under the age of two, preferably girls. My husband and I are pastors who last year brought home two special needs boys from China, ages 4 and 5 that were legitimately waiting for a family. I hope and pray that in the necessity of spotlighting the abuse that happens in adoption, you do not lightly glance over the millions of kids that are yearning, year after year, for a family, the thousands that age out of the system every day, without ever having a chance at being raised in a home. The burden of my heart for the Church is to catch the vision that biblical adoption is truly visiting the orphan in his distress, and there are millions of distressed kids out there. (visiting meaning all kinds of sponsorship, community building, foster care, and yes, even adoption.) It is becoming more and more difficult to place young, healthy kids for families who aren't really in it to meet the needs of the kids; rather the hidden agenda being to fill their own needs and desires for family, whatever that looks like. And it is a juggling act for me in my mind to balance not creating an industry for babies, when we abort millions here in our own homeland, and literally rescuing the kids that are truly waiting. I believe there are so many ways we can help gird up the families in the poorest areas of the world. Meanwhile, what do we do with the kids that truly wait? We have to reach both.
Susan Brown - May 14th, 2013 at 2:50 PM
true, true, true...thanks for sharing.

Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:00 PM
Agreed, and hopefully the next post will offer some tangible, ethical approaches to orphan care, including careful adoptions.
Margie - May 14th, 2013 at 2:28 PM
This subject needs the kind of discussion that this post has generated - serious, honest, heartfelt, respectful discussion of issues that too often spark ideological rhetoric but nothing else.

Although the discussion here focuses primarily on adoptions from developing countries, I would add that the risk of corruption exists wherever adoption takes place. It may be subtler, even promoted (like our tendency here in the US to encourage young single women toward adoption rather than parenting) or accepted as "part of the culture." But the resulting separation is as devastating as if the child had been kidnapped.
Alysa - May 14th, 2013 at 2:29 PM
When I came back from Ethiopia, I was interviewed on the news, and one of the questions they asked was "Don't you just want to rescue them all, and bring them home with you?" I was humbled and thankful to be able to talk about the fact that organizations (in this case Food for the Hungry) are actually keeping families intact which is a far better solution when possible.

Thank you for bringing this up, thank you for opening our eyes.
Missy - May 15th, 2013 at 3:00 PM
"Don't you just want to rescue them all, and bring them home with you?"

I think this is the attitude that too many of us in the Church have been guilty of for far too long, and one we need to repent of. By this logic, Jesus himself should have been adopted to a nice upper middle class Baptist couple in Dallas instead of being raised by his young, poverty stricken, possibly uneducated, scandalously pregnant third world parents.

Jessica @ The Mom Creative - May 14th, 2013 at 2:36 PM
Thank you for writing this Jen. So much truth and heart in your words. xo
Deirdre - May 14th, 2013 at 2:36 PM
Thank you for opening our eyes to the realities. I think I have always assumed kids in orphanages had deceased parents and no other option. Let the truth be known!
Courtney - May 14th, 2013 at 2:41 PM
So, so so good. A conversation that needs to be had. Thank you!!!
Susan Brown - May 14th, 2013 at 2:42 PM
The U.S., which historically has received about half of the world's annual international adoptions, saw a decline of more than 60 percent from 2004 to just over 9,000 last year......let's not be too quick with harsh statements.....we may know more people involved in international adoptions, but the #'s continue to drop....due to new laws & some countries completely shutting down international adoptions....yet......the # of orphans, whether they be "true" or "social" orphans continues to rise......don't choose to do nothing out of fear of doing what may give the appearance of "social misgivings"....do your research, seek Godly council & move forward to help at least one......all it takes is 1 mission trip visit to an orphanage to move your feet/hands/heart/mind to open your home & family to a child in need!!!!!!!!! my husband & i are in our early 50's with 3 sons', ages 26,22,&18...soon to be empty-nesters??? nope, our oldest is severely disabled & requires full time care & he lives at home with us, my background is in special ed, prior to marriage & children. after 2 mission trips to an awesome, reputable orphanage in haiti, where i was able to work with friends with the special needs kids/teens/adults there....i fell in love with all the kids, who will probably live out their lives in this orphanage....no services for the special needs population in haiti, they are viewed as "throw aways".....no school for any child unless you can pay for it, no therapy services for disabled, no health care for those in need, which is everyone!!!!!! we are in the beginning stages of adopting an 8 year old boy with CP whose parents' BEGGED the orphanage to take him from their rural city of Pestel which is in dire circumstances with malnutrition & a cholera epidemic.....at the age of 8 he had never had a wheelchair or walker, no education.....i refuse to sit back & do nothing at this new chapter of life....yes, there are those who are not using the system correctly or for the good of the child/family.....but we cannot sit & wait for the problems to be fixed, which they won't ever be completely fixed....go spend some time in a country like Haiti & you will quickly see the overwhelming need & if you are able to go home & not have your heart hurt for the children & long to care & love for at least one....you might need to check you faith card....just saying.....
Tara - May 14th, 2013 at 5:19 PM
It is hard to imagine this, I know. But when there is a demand for children, it means MORE children are relinquished. Supply and demand and capitalism and the almighty dollar all play a role in creating MORE insitutionalized children. Nobody said there are not true orphans and nobody said there is not a need for adoption. I don't think I know what "you might need to check your faith card" means. I hope it is lovely and kind and not condeming. Calling out the corruption is what has to happen in order for people to know how very real it is. If we don't talk about it, we are complicit.
Katie Ganshert - May 14th, 2013 at 2:47 PM
I wrote a blog post about the good, bad, and ugly aspects of adoption as we travel our own journey.....http://katieganshert.com/adoption-2/adoption-good-bad-ugly/
Brandi - May 14th, 2013 at 2:51 PM
Well done! Well said! Looking forward to the next post on what can be done.
Sarah - May 14th, 2013 at 2:51 PM
What a great post. My husband and I are planning to adopt two children, but I have thought about just donating that money to the community so families can stay intact when they want to. I would love to hear how we can help!
K - May 14th, 2013 at 11:52 PM
Sarah, do not be disheartened. Kids do need families. Millions of them do. You just need to make sure you go with a reputable agency... do your research. And just sending money to help doesn't work either. Read "When Helping Hurts" which talks about how sending money isn't the solution either. Honestly, if my kids were not adopted, they would probably be dead, or best case, be rotting away in a terrible orphanage. Adoption saved their lives.
Sarah - May 14th, 2013 at 2:52 PM
Thanks for this post. I currently live in the Congo and investigate adopted children's histories. This is often what we find. I'm looking forward to Part II because we're currently starting to ask those pre-emptive questions before the adoption takes place to try to prevent what we eventually find out during our investigations. (mamacongo.blogspot.com)
Mary - May 14th, 2013 at 2:52 PM
Mercyhousekenya.org is how we support and love birth mothers.
Kc - May 14th, 2013 at 2:52 PM
Jen, in 2012 there were less than 10,000 international adoptions. I agree with your premise wholeheartedly and have blogged about it. However, the assumption that millions of dollars are driving corruption would not be fair. What is true is that if we care about orphans, adoption is a meager attempt at reducing the problem. Long-range, systematic, indigenous empowerment of local people groups, particularly women, is what is needed. I'm tired of reading these darn blogs with all of these swooning mothers about orphans but none of them have the courage to sell their crap, and jump in with their husbands to move to Africa to put hard work into allowing mothers and families to keep their babies. More boots on the ground, less blogging about saving. Signed, adoptive Dad
Susan Brown - May 14th, 2013 at 3:08 PM
love it!
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:06 PM
Quick pushback: If 10,000 international adoptions went through last year, and each one is conservatively $20,000 (ours was way more and most are), then last year alone, $200 million went into international adoption. So I'd call that a fair amount of incentive. That said, I FULLY agree with you on the empowerment of local people and will talk about that at length in the next post. The work necessary is far less appealing but more sustainable and far-reaching. Totally agree.
kc - May 14th, 2013 at 8:33 PM
I concede. But we are talking about ~$200 million over a year and amongst several countries and much of it spent in the US. As I said, I like your point and I am encouraged with where you are heading. Your premise is valid and it's good dialogue to be having. I am not much for the author, but the book Wild at Heart sort of speaks to what I am alluding to. I think many men have the heart to jump in and go to a particular country to minister to indigenous families, however, the mommies are reluctant to "get dirty." It is, of course, far easier to carry a cute little child around on your hip in the comfort of your community bragging about all that you have done to save the world. I am intentionally being a bit gruff to drive home the point. Truth is, adoption is needed and necessary, but so is long-term work in communities to prevent adoption. If my daughter, whom I love deeply, could skip the pain and be with her mother today, despite my gut wrenching pain, I would have her with her mother because it's where she belongs and I want what is best for her; I love her. Be that as it may, she is indeed a true orphan and had no parents or relatives. You obviously have a large readership, so preach the message or where our efforts need to be. You are on the money. Christ
Ljsa - May 14th, 2013 at 2:55 PM
As a family who was lied to about our daughter's status- we say hear, hear! One can certainly argue that her life will be 'better here' as someone with a visible disability reviled in her country, but as a mom it is hard for me to swallow that she would not have been better off with the (foster) family she was with for the first 12 years of her life. No child should have to decide to leave their family for largely financial reasons. Absolutely heart wrenching to watch, and it makes me wish I could bring her first mama here to hug her and make it all better. I can give her a 'better future' but I can't make it all better.
Liz - May 14th, 2013 at 2:56 PM
All good people are capable of being corrupted by their own desires. Going "baby crazy" or "orphan crazy" can cause people to look past corruption or the birth parents or gloss it over. It's all about THEM and THEIR needs and wants of babies. Americans are extremely egotistical and think that every child would be better off in their wealthy or Christian home, as opposed to the poor or heathen home of their biological family (some churches even preach this idea). It's that way of thinking that does the most harm, and there will always be coercion and unethical adoption as long as American adopters believe they are "better". The adoptive parents who take the most offense to this article are probably the ones who need to examine themselves the most.

I personally chose not to pursue infant adoption in any way, domestic or international, because the potential for a coerced adoption was too high for me to risk being involved in it. But then again, I am not "baby crazy" - I don't have a void inside me that needs to be filled. I deeply sympathize with the biological pull that can make people "baby crazy" - but it results in people not thinking straight and making choices motivated by desperation (read any Adoptive Parent Profile - they almost always say they are "desperate" to fill their home with love). Right now I am opening my home to older kids in foster care, so that when / if they do become legally free, they have a home available. The system is broken and this does not guarantee the birth families were separated ethically 100% of the time, but I think the chances of a coerced separation are much lower in foster care.
Trace - May 14th, 2013 at 2:58 PM
Holy crap -- you went there! Mad props. Isn't it interesting how we think God is leading us to a destination -- like adoption -- and then we find that it wasn't a destination at all, but more of a waypoint on a much longer journey. Glad you opened this can of worms and I have a ton of respect for all the commenters who are engaging the conversation in earnest rather than being defensive of their own world-view.
Rachel N - May 14th, 2013 at 2:59 PM
http://www.adoptionministry127.com/ One of the reasons we love our agency is that they are also working hard to "preserve families and present orphans." Really, if you have a moment, take a look at the site. I think you'll be encouraged. Thank you for your article - we definitely need to be aware of all sides of this coin.
Suz - May 14th, 2013 at 3:07 PM
"preserve families and present orphans." " I would offer that you should do more than look at their site. Ask for the actual #s of families preserved versus those that are placed with babies. Ask to speak to those preserved families and ask what the agency did for them. Ask the agency what EXACTLY they do to preserve families. If they stutter, stammer, refuse...you should be wary. Ask the questions. Ask for proof. Anything less is accepting their marketing fluff. How do you know they are truly doing that versus just putting that feel good line on their website to make a PAP feel better about claiming the child born to someone else as their own?
Jennifer - May 17th, 2013 at 6:46 PM
I can assure you that adoptionministry127 is the real deal and we sponsor one such family at Korah. We had the opportunity to visit our family's home in January 2012. Out of desperation, the family had considered placing the youngest two children for adoption. Adoption Ministry 127 stepped in with sponsorship allowed the family to remain intact. YWAM has been working with the ET government for months to get approval for microloans so that families like the one we sponsor can start an IGA so that they can ultimately be self sufficient. There is no marketing fluff going on there.
Rachel N - May 17th, 2013 at 7:16 PM
(that should read "preserve families and preVent orphans" - just to be clear.) For what it's worth, I assure you that this ministry is legitimate, above board, and making a huge difference in the lives of many families in Ethiopia. I have first hand, eye-witness experience in Ethiopia as well as personal communication with the organization. While there is no doubt that there is evil corruption in this world, it is sad to me that some are so cynical that it's hard for them to believe that there are individuals and organizations who are actually operating in integrity. We need to put as much effort into highlighting these groups as we do in exposing the unethical ones. You can't fight evil by just exposing it and then doing nothing else. We must also support those who are addressing the global problems of poverty and orphaned children WITH integrity.
MIssy - May 15th, 2013 at 3:21 PM
I have no intention to offend you Rachel, but for any adoption agency to claim that they are making efforts to preserve first families makes me rise skeptical eyebrows in the same vein as when an abortion clinic claims to desire to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Both incredibly egregious examples of competing interests. Why would you slaughter your biggest cash cow?

Even if an organizations intentions are noble, if they truly believe in adoption, it is going to be very difficult for them to try and convince a struggling mother with an infant girl that she needs to parent when they know they have a long line of nice couples with thousands of dollars dying to do the same. And I am speaking as one of those former couples.

Loyalties should not be divided in such a way. If Tara Livesay were to begin an adoption agency tomorrow she would lose all credibility with me. The gulf between family preservation agencies and adoption agencies should be at least a million miles wide.

Jennifer - May 17th, 2013 at 8:46 PM
YWAM has never had a "long line of nice couples" waiting to adopt children. Instead, they only accept as many families into their program as they have children waiting. Right now, there are very few families in the program because there are very few children waiting in the orphanage for families. It is a very different model than the one most adoption programs follow - their goal is and always has been finding families for the children that come their way, rather than finding children for the families. There is a big ideological difference there. YWAM has been working in Ethiopia for several years and during that time, they have worked diligently to find long term solutions that will help the marginalized population in that country. Their family preservation program is one such solution. Having adopted our two children through YWAM and now having the opportunity to sponsor a family, I have nothing but positive things to say about this organization. You can question their motives until the cows come home, but those of us involved with the organization know the good that they are doing in our children's country of origin and, at the end of the day, that is really all that matters.

Melissa - May 17th, 2013 at 9:07 PM
Missy, I also adopted through YWAM Ethiopia, which is the agency being talked about on this particular thread. My husband and I traveled to our daughter's orphanage and took photos of many of the children living there. There was one beautiful, plump, bright eyed 18 month old little girl that caught my eye and I had about a dozen photos of her at the end of the day. A few weeks after we returned home from Ethiopia, I emailed the photos of that girl to our agency and they informed me she was no longer at the home because her mother had returned for her. She had found a job and was able to be reunited with her daughter. The woman wrote this to me with multiple exclamation marks and a happy face emoticon. I can say, from personal experience, there truly are some wonderful agencies out there that are doing EXACTLY what Jen is saying needs to be done. Instead of assuming the worst, call and talk to them.
Jennifer - May 14th, 2013 at 3:01 PM
Wow Jen. As an adult sibling of 6, 2 adopted state-side with special needs, I am aware of the narrative adoption creates. One of my siblings was placed because the family could not accept his diagnosis. The other because mom was 18 and felt she couldn't raise him on her own.
What if our culture understood that "other" (re: developmental disability) wasn't something to fear? What if we spent time building support for young mothers who could raise their child if resources were at hand?
Another honest topic: Adoption changes family dynamics - especially when trying to blend children with multiple needs into an otherwise healthy family. Adoption can open siblings hearts or tear them out. I know.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:07 PM
Great questions to ask...
Becky V - May 14th, 2013 at 3:11 PM
Wow, looking forward to Part 2. We adopted from China almost nine years ago and never thought about the possibility that our daughter was anything except "found" but I'm now hearing noises about other possibilities, not for our child but other adoptive parents are starting to ask questions and it's hard to get answers. Just watched the movie Somewhere Between where one girl finds her birth parents in China, the father never wanted to give her up, the mother was told she was being adopted by a family in the neighboring town, not being adopted in the U.S. Those orphanages were getting $3,000 per child. I'm glad to see that adopting from China takes longer, hoping it's due to the children getting to stay with their families and not ending up in the orphanage in the first place.
Tiff - May 14th, 2013 at 3:11 PM
I found you by way of Jamie The Very Worst Missionary.
Thank you for having the guts to start this discussion.
16 years ago we tried to start the process of adopting a child from China. I was naive and starry eyed, but had the best intentions. While in the preliminary stages it was explained to me that the adoption of children was actually more like a trade agreement between countries (at that point my country did not have any privatised adoption agencies but only a federal government program). The country the child was from was paid for that child & they could put restrictions onto who could adopt from their country.
I was physically sickened. I could not comprehend how a child could be a trade agreement. Little did I know then how the adoption business would spiral into the monster it is today. Add to that the human slavery that has grown prolifically and we have a world that values its children for the money that can be made from the sale of them. Children are a commodity and while there is demand they will continue to be so.
We did not adopt. I am now a Foster Carer. Don't even get me started on that broken system!!
Joanna - May 14th, 2013 at 3:15 PM
I can only relate to this with my own experience. Our son was adopted internationally. His birthmother had every opportunity to have him and keep him (after aborting 8 times previously). The missionaries that helped her in the crisis pregnancy home she lived offered to house her after she gave birth. They loved her. Ultimately she made the decision to go back to her previous living condition. Shortly thereafter, she committed suicide. When I was told of her death, I felt like a member of my family had died. I mourned for my son, who was only 2 years old at the time, because he will never meet the mother who carried him.

My daughter was also adopted internationally. Her birth family had married parents with an older sister and brother. Her parents got divorced, the older sister stayed with the mom, the older brother stayed with the dad, and no one felt like they could care for the newborn baby.

Adoption is not the first choice, for anyone, including God. God created Adam and Eve to live in perfection and blissful communion with him. But sin entered the picture, and Satan destroyed God's perfect handiwork. Adoption was God's solution of redemption for our lives. Someone had to die for that to happen. Now we are in his forever family.

Sometimes, adoption is really the only choice.
Nicole - May 14th, 2013 at 3:17 PM
Thank you for this! I started researching adoption a few years ago and am so thankful that God is taking me on the slow process as I've been learning more and more about the importance of orphan prevention and just adoption.
Sarah Boyd - May 14th, 2013 at 3:21 PM
I really enjoy reading your posts Jen, every one speaks directly to my heart and I literally don't think I've read a single post without crying from sorrow or joy.

This post is very sad and I'm so glad you're bringing attention to it. Children should be raised by their birth parents and if all they need is more support to do so then I want to help. Adoption is for children with no parents or parents outside of a realm of support (parents in jail, dealing with drug addictions, etc. those parents that need more than just some community help).

I love your heart and your personality and wish I had been able to meet you while I lived in Austin, If you're ever in Seattle, I'll take you to dinner.
brett fish anderson - May 14th, 2013 at 3:25 PM
brilliant article and makes so much sense but i had no or little idea, so hectic, but thank you for sharing - have a bunch of good friends who have adopted and also with amazing hearts and wanting the best for the children, but this feels like information that needs to get out there. thank you so much for taking it on and sharing!
Robyn Gobbel, LCSW - May 14th, 2013 at 3:28 PM
Jen, thank you so so so much for writing this and standing up. Thank you. ~Robyn
Mary - May 14th, 2013 at 3:29 PM
I am in agreement with all that you say. This has become such a hot button topic and when I read various commentary on other blogs and book reviews I have to say I get VERY saddened, frustrated, angry and somewhat discouraged. I am an adoptive mom to two boys who were adopted internationally. I firmly belive and support keeping families together is the first priority and that should be the main goal across the globe. However, we cannot discount the children who are currently in the orphanages, etc. while we work to make this the priority. I know you are not insinuating that . . . I just feel sometimes when reading comments elsewhere that people are so consumed with whether adoption is right or wrong and completely disregard the children who are stuck at the moment. Looking forward to your next blog.
Katie Ganshert - May 14th, 2013 at 4:35 PM
I resonate with this Mary. There is the ideal (family preservation) and then there is reality (families torn apart b/c of poverty, AIDS, war, etc.) and then there's the gap between the two where so many children are stuck. As I travel this journey, I've been trying to wrap my mind around how to fight for the ideal w/o overlooking the children who are currently stuck in reality. I was in Kinshasa, DRC two weeks ago, visiting orphanages....no child should have to grow up in that type of environment. Yes, many of these children have a living birth parent. But what good is that if they are still languishing in orphanages? I wish I had the answers. In fact, I wish I could sit across from Jesus over lunch and ask Him exactly how to handle this.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:09 PM
I hope to make that clear in the next post! Ethical adoption certainly has its place. It is the only option for so many, besides institutionalization.
Jenna - May 14th, 2013 at 3:29 PM
"I%u2019m not hearing enough about prioritizing birth families and empowering them to raise their own children, not even from well-meaning adoptive parents. Isn%u2019t that what we want? Shouldn%u2019t intact families be our highest goal? Shouldn%u2019t we want for birth families exactly what we want for our own, if it is possible?"

I want to turn you on to a wonderful organization in Ethiopia called Embracing Hope Ethiopia. The ones who started it are my old pastor and his wife who adopted in Ethiopia and while there, God drew on them to come back and help the poorest so they can KEEP their children! Sponsorship is available and they have worked very hard to create it with much prayer and just recently, it has been turned back to the nationals, who run it, with them still having a part in it!!


I think people are beginning to see, but this is a great post and one I certainly will tuck away in my mind!
Stephanie - May 14th, 2013 at 3:36 PM
I could not agree more with you, Jen. My husband and I are three years into our first adoption process, and our eyes are wide open and there is a fire in our hearts to protect the orphaned. It started out as a process to grow our family and help a child find a home...but now, we feel a deep responsibility to be a part of the change that is so desperately needed in the world of international adoption. I am SO THANKFUL for your courage in writing this. I have very openly shared the same sentiments and have gotten a lot of flack from a few different adoption communities...I am thankful I am not alone in my resolve for change.
AnneH - May 14th, 2013 at 3:37 PM
I am glad that you have opened this up here. I was recently very disappointed when I heard a radio interview of Kathryn Joyce on her book: The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the Gospel of Adoption. I was disappointed that there was no responsible Christian perspective on adoption ethics offered as a part of the program. Thanks for being that voice! Adoption as a "business" is fraught with complexity and corruption for sure. Having served in Guatemala, I know that there is incredible mistrust of foreigners especially in remote regions because of child snatching and deceitful practices. It's deplorable. More of our efforts should be spent supporting community development and first families for sure.
Kristin - May 14th, 2013 at 3:42 PM
Thanks for tackling this topic. There is always the dichotomy of corruption and real need. The question I have is how to best position ourselves to be available for children who real need of a family. Adoption agencies, the foster care system, etc it's all so overwhelming.
Megan - May 14th, 2013 at 3:57 PM
This is SO good. I am so encouraged to hear these thoughts starting to come from adoption circles. I am the co-founder of an organization in Uganda that works with families to help them keep their children (we are officially launching in August) called Abide Family Center. We will work with the local government so that families who are coming to give their children up to an orphanage can actually be referred to us and offered family strengthening services so they can keep their kids. We started off in Uganda wanting to work in orphanages, thinking that the children in them were actually orphans (both parents dead). We discovered around 90% of the kids living in orphanages in Uganda actually had family members and that many of them were only there because of poverty. We decided to address the problem from a different angle by working with families BEFORE their kids ended up in orphanages. I'm so excited to here the American church start to realize these things and work to improve they way we address caring for the orphan and vulnerable child. I truly think this is going to start a new movement that will make us so much more effective in this area!
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:10 PM
Hannah - May 14th, 2013 at 3:58 PM
Thanks for writing this. This is the nuanced perspective I have been waiting for.
Sarah @ Raising Isabella - May 14th, 2013 at 4:09 PM
Jen, hurry with part 2! I'm officially DTE for almost a month and you make me feel so conflicted! (As if I wasn't already.)
Annie - May 14th, 2013 at 4:13 PM
I agree with a lot of what you had to say, and I think it needs to be said. Often I have wondered about the legitimacy of adoption, especaially after spending several months volunteering at a children's home in Haiti where almost all of the children had one or more able bodied parent. The place was profiting off of Christians donating money to care for the kids who they thought were orphaned. I witnessed this everywhere. Empowering families is great-- imperative, even...but think about the foster care system in the US. It sucks (in my opinion). We give parents chance after chance to abuse their kids. We'd never tell battered women to reunite with their husbands, but we do it to kids all the time. It's just wrong. Empowering families is important, but children are the priority. I also wonder why there aren't as many babies as there are older children. Are the older children's parents dead? Or do the birthparents abandon older children more often than babies? Any idea?
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:11 PM
Absolutely true. Our system here is broken as well. I aim to answer some of your questions in the next post. Glad you're asking.
Erin - May 14th, 2013 at 10:32 PM
"We give parents chance after chance to abuse their kids. We'd never tell battered women to reunite with their husbands, but we do it to kids all the time.... Empowering families is important, but children are the priority."
Great words, Annie. Thanks for adding.
Jan Stewart - June 8th, 2013 at 6:45 PM
hmmm we tell women to go back to their abusive husbands ( because you have no money, no home no job no support ) or we will remove your children.....but then we will remove your children because he is abusive..........how is that empowering women?
Kristi - May 14th, 2013 at 4:16 PM
Love this conversation. We adopted from Ethiopia 4 years ago, and I cringe in my heart now when I think of our choice to be put on the waitlist for a healthy baby. Adoption has opened my eyes in so many ways. I am thankful that so many in the adoption world are tackling these issues now. We are adopting again, a little one with Down syndrome from Ukraine. While there is an obvious need for her to get out of the institution there, I am much more aware of the dynamics of birth family this go around.
It is also very encouraging to read all ways folks are involved in family preservation in these comments. I think we are gettting it, and it will get better as these topics continue to come up. Some of us adoptive families may have gone in blind, but it has changed us, and we will not sit idle.
Brandon - May 14th, 2013 at 4:18 PM
I'm grateful for this discussion and the way you approached it Jen. I totally agree that we should be 100% mindful for corruption and not be willing to comply with any, doing everything we possibly can to guard against it. However, even with the best of intentions and safeguards, I fear that eroding corruption 100% is impossible in reality. I do not think we should comply with "sometimes," but realistically I don't know if "never" is an actual option when dealing with sinful people (but "never" should be the goal we work toward for sure). I imagine that even if (hopefully "when" not "if") we perfect our safeguards, there will still be a rogue story of corruption and I wouldn't want us to throw out the baby (legitimate orphans) with the bathwater (the rare but impossible to prevent corruption that may come).

I also love your rallying cry for Orphan Prevention and I hope we as believers are willing to think holistically about this issue and work toward solving the root issues. However, I hope we will not overreact and write off the immediate need for legitimate adoptions in the process. Adoption is certainly not the only answer holistically, but for a lot of children currently alive it is the best option.

I think of it this way: if a young child who was thirsting to death came to me asking for a bottle of water (which I had), I could both a) give him the bottle of water, and b) figure out a way to get his community clean water. However, if I denied him the water because it was not a holistic solution for his community he may be dead before the root issue is solved.

In the same way, I hope we can work toward Orphan Prevention all over the world, reallocating resources, re-thinking priorities, while at the same time not allowing legitimate orphans to grow up in an orphanage because adopting them would not be a holistic answer. We can work toward preventing children from being orphaned in the future, but we can't time travel unfortunately.

For clarity, I do not think we disagree about any of this, I only fear that some would take the emotional weight of this discussion in these directions. Thanks for bringing up a very important discussion. Looking forward to part 2!
Katie Ganshert - May 14th, 2013 at 4:42 PM
So very well said, Brandon! Thank you for bringing some coherency and articulation to the many conflicted thoughts rolling around in my head!
Sarah - May 14th, 2013 at 8:30 PM
Agreed. I am struggling with this entire post. My interpretation is that Jen believes adoption is wrong... And I cannot agree with that at all. We are called to care for orphans and widows!
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:13 PM
We absolutely agree. Adoption is a viable solution in many cases, and the only option sometimes. I'll include that in the many approaches to take in the next post. But with so few PAPs pressing pause early in the journey, I'm okay with putting a little emotional weight behind ethics. I wish I'd heard this earlier.
Donna - May 15th, 2013 at 9:24 AM
Thank you for the balance...that really is the dilemma, isn't it? We can't ignore the thousands (and thousands) already relinquished and being abandoned daily while we work on very difficult long term solutions. But focusing solely/primarily on orphan care and adoption doesn't stop the cycle and in some cases worsens it. I was changed by adoption; after adopting three children internationally I did put the boots on and moved to their home country to help take care of the kids already abandoned with little hope (due to disabilities and age) of ever having a family of their own. So I see it first hand. It's heartbreak central to see children, mostly infants, with the most minor of problems abandoned for lack of education and affordable medical care. In our country there is little chance of reunification because most abandonments are anonymous. In a few situations we have been fortunate to be approached directly and to have been able to offer what is needed to keep the family together. If Christians could really wake up they would realize that the $30,000 it costs to bring one child to the US could keep ten or more children from being abandoned. Would they do it? It's a lot of money, and at the end what do you have to show for it? If 100 families waiting in that 6, 7, 10 year line for an infant took that money and put it where it would make a difference for medical care in this country, can you imagine how many children would be sleeping in their own beds with their biological parents tonight? These parents don't want to throw away their children; that's a myth we use to comfort ourselves. They have no options, and they are often counseled by the very people who should be helping them that the best thing to do is throw the child away.
I am thankful to Jen and to you for opening the discussion; we have been satisfied for too long with platitudes, easy fixes and doing the right thing as long as it pays back for us.

Ami - May 15th, 2013 at 10:25 AM
Brandon, yes!! This is it. Exactly.
Kristi - May 14th, 2013 at 4:22 PM
On this website, http://reecesrainbow.org/ are many of the children who "are" waiting for families, not the just the children families may "want".

Thanks for a great post and discussion.
Rissa - May 14th, 2013 at 6:03 PM
Kristi, some of the children shown on Reece's Rainbow are not legally available for adoption, or at least not through the means of an English-language website. Their information does not reach them through approved, legal channels.

Reece's Rainbow took a lot of flak from adoption reformers for long disobeying Russia's regulations and sharing children's photos and personal medical information--information that even most Russian sites do not provide, as it violates the children's right to privacy. The use of such photolistings to "market" kids is an ethical grey area at best.
Kristi - May 14th, 2013 at 6:29 PM
Rissa, thank you for your comment. It is so good to research each agency and know what's right and wrong. I have read a lot of criticism of Reece's Rainbow as well. It does seem like a grey area. These children with disabilities are usually in desperate need of medical care. Some of it could be given there in their country, but some are never going to be taken care of by family due to their disability.
As it applies to Jen's post, I appreciate what RR is doing for these kids, the ones who really need adopted. I hope RR can do it a manner that is ethical. It is all so hard, but we have to keep asking the tough questions while helping the kids that we can.
Jamie Calloway-Hanauer - May 14th, 2013 at 4:32 PM
This is amazing. Thank you so much for addressing this highly critical issue that so many want to turn a blind eye to, or simply don't take the time to find out about. It's certainly easier not to know the truth. My husband and I actually talk about this issue quite a bit, especially the "good intentions" part. It is so hard to balance the true, heartfelt, loving desires of those who are seeking to adopt, with the knowledge that they might not be doing their research, sometimes out of being over trusting, and sometimes because it's just easier that way. We don't want good-hearted, well-intentioned people to stop adopting, we just want it done the right way, and that has become so, so hard. How to we keep people from being frozen in fear that they won't be helping the "right" way? I think your writing here is fair and balance and acknowledges we don't want to freeze people with fear, but rather equip them with knowledge.
Megan - May 14th, 2013 at 4:39 PM
THANK YOU for being so honest. Just last week we had to help a birth mother "buy back her baby" after being tricked into receiving $100 for her child. This is DEFINITELY a plight of the enemy here in Haiti (and all over the world)...
Von - May 14th, 2013 at 4:40 PM
At last! The light at the end of the tunnel. Time to get real, to acknowledge the corruption in the adoption industry and to do something about it. It can be done and with support, imagination and good will children can stay with their parents in many, many instances.It is a tragedy when adoptees are removed from their motherland, their culture,language and relatives.
Rosetta - May 14th, 2013 at 4:42 PM
THIS. IS. AWESOME. You write what has been burning on my heart for months now. International adoption is not the answer to the orphan crisis (as my Ethiopian child sleeps down the hall). So grateful for your voice. Keep going, Jen.
Ryan Hanlon - May 14th, 2013 at 5:04 PM
You%u2019ve contrasted two different points of view: %u201Cadoptive parents%u2019 rights%u201D vs. %u201CFirst Families%u2019 rights%u201D. This is constantly the perspective of adoptive proponents vs. those opposed to adoption. Both sides in that discussion are wrong. It%u2019s about the child%u2019s rights %u2013 not about parents%u2019 rights. A child has a right to grow up in a family. As soon as we view this from the point of view of the parents%u2019 rights (either birth family or adoptive family) there is far too much room for what is best for a child to be neglected. You missed this in what you wrote; I don%u2019t mean that disrespectfully, but I do hope you%u2019ll consider this.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:16 PM
Great clarification, Ryan. Thank you for that. I think that perspective will become clear as I move forward with this conversation. Because in some cases, the child's best interests is absolutely out of his first family. However, many western adopters assume that the child's best interests include living in western homes, as opposed to material poverty with their first families, and that is not necessarily true. So our definition of "what is best" can seriously skew our judgment.
Ryan Hanlon - May 14th, 2013 at 8:05 PM
Yes, but in these circumstances, it's not usually a question of "should the child grow up with their first family or with a western wealthier family?" Your blog post was far too simplistic and broadly painted a picture of international adoption as a process designed for adoptive families. It's a process designed for children.

graceling - May 15th, 2013 at 11:17 PM
International adoption, as a process, is designed for children. International adoption, as a practice, both in third world countries and here in the US/other Western nations, is primarily about adoptive parents rights/desires. The huge gulf between what the (theoretical) process is designed to do and the effects of the actual practice is what creates the many opportunities for unethical actions to take place in and adoption.
Lindsey from The R House - May 14th, 2013 at 5:10 PM
I hope that you get involved with the STUCK tour. It has been the most profound and eye opening documentary film I have seen on governmental corruption in adoption. https://bothendsburning.org/

Sounds like you would seriously love it.
Jamie - May 14th, 2013 at 5:40 PM
I love this post. It is much needed. We should be helping birth parents in America keep their babies too. If we did, I believe there would be very few "open" adoptions. There is much wrong with adoption in America too. When one of the largest Christian adoption agencies in the world tells you and a bunch of other couples whose arms are aching for a baby that "The more "open" you are, the quicker you will get a baby" and "Maybe God just wants to stretch you", there is something seriously wrong.
Missy - May 14th, 2013 at 5:44 PM
You brung it.
Julie - May 14th, 2013 at 5:48 PM
This must be a trend because lately I have read many blogs about adoption ethics. One thing that strikes me is that all these people who are now talking about ethics have already adopted children. Why talk about it after and not before? Don't get me wrong I'm not a hater, I love Jen and her work (especially her sense of humor). However, there is a part of me that feels these bloggers are hypocritical as they sit and write about ethics while their homes and hearts are full from the very system they are now criticizing. It just seems like the philosophy is once I have "acquired" what fulfills me then I can stand up on a soapbox and proclaim the process as unjust. I'm sorry if this offends some people but I can't help but thinking it.
Kristi - May 14th, 2013 at 6:38 PM
I think the reason many adoptive parents are getting involved in this issue is because once we have adopted we are intricately aware of the dynamics. We see the longing in our child's eyes or we held a birth parent's hand. Until you have done this, I think its hard to understand it all. We don't just love our adopted child, we now love their birth family, even if we don't know them, and we love their country. We realize the need for other options. I don't feel hypocrital entering this discussion after adopting, I feel passionate about it. I simply didn't know before. And I think that since so many of us are obviously entering this arena, big changes can happen. As an above commenter wrote, we need to put the best interest of the CHILD first. I am still pro-adoption, but I am above all pro-child.
Becky - May 14th, 2013 at 7:39 PM
I have been seeing the same thing and thought the same thing until visiting a ministry in Uganda called Ekubo. They are a family where the mom is American and father is Ugandan and have 14 children, 10 adopted there. The mom went there to work specifically with orphans but once on ground saw that it was much more than that. They work diligently and transparently (they share every detail of their journey on Facebook) to create jobs and keep children with their families (we helped the women make beads and baskets - hard work). They're not the typical family on the blogs I read where they adopt, then jump on their soapbox and discourage others. They're just trying to make everyone aware of the corruption so they make informed decisions, not ones based on feelings. Actually when we visited their ministry, everyone on our team was ready to hand over cash and they gracefully asked that we not give but go home, pray, listen to God, and then donate if he leaded us to. They live on donations alone so I thought this was pretty crazy. I also thought it was crazy for them to be an non-government org that processes international adoption but also work so hard to bring awareness to the corruption. I see your point but wanted to highlight this ministry. They are doing amazing things for which they take no credit. We didn't see that with many ministries in all my mission trips. Their names are Christie and George Magera and their page is https://www.facebook.com/EkuboMinistriesUganda.
graceling - May 15th, 2013 at 11:31 PM
As an adoptive parent, I have been involved in adoption ethics since 2007. I did everything I knew to do to ensure the ethics of our process. It was hard to come by advice beyond "pick an ethical agency." Those who did offer advice said things that were very hard to hear, and were often labeled as crazy (or worse) by their eager prospective adoptive parent counterparts. I did everything I could do based on all the info I could find, and in the end, I did find breeches in the ethics of our adoption. I cannot put into words the heartbreak that caused me, nor can I say measure the pain caused to my daughter and her first mother.

When something like that happens, you simply can't stay silent. It wasn't as though I didn't care about adoption ethics before my adoption- I did! But it was only after walking through our adoption and post-adoption process that I could be confident enough to speak up and warn other prospective parent about what they need to do to protect themselves, and moreso to advocate for improved systems that will protect children, first families, and adoptive parents--- rather than leaving them vulnerable to predatory agencies and individuals.

It's kind of like c-sections. I have several friends who chose elective c-sections. Afterwards, even as they held their beautiful healthy babies, they began to change their tune. They realized that there were a lot of dangers of c-sections, that the pain and need for healing could be immense, and that their c-section impacted their ability to mother in the way they wished. They began warning friends against elective c-sections. Not because c-sections are bad- of course not, in some cases they are necessary and even save lives! But they warned against elective c-sections because the risks were huge, the side effects were massive, and they didn't want anyone else to suffer in that way.
michelle - May 14th, 2013 at 6:29 PM
I love the way you broached this subject. I adore the thoughtfulness and respect of the commenters and I so look forward to reading your next post about this. This is such an important subject and this may be the only information many of us read on Adoption Ethics. Thank you for addressing a complicated topic.
Alyssa - May 14th, 2013 at 6:30 PM
Our friends went to Haiti to work while they waited to adopt several years ago. They ended up staying and starting an amazing program providing work for parents so they can keep their children. http://apparentproject.org/

Shannon - May 14th, 2013 at 8:30 PM
I was looking through the comments to see if anyone mentioned the Apparent Project!! :)
Paula F. - May 14th, 2013 at 6:45 PM
Thank you so much for your honesty. I have written about our adoption story (Haiti), fraught with corruption and hope other will do the same. We need reform and it will only happen if a lot of people speak out. Here is our story: http://www.lakeschooling.com/2013/05/my-new-teen-and-thoughts-she-inspires.html
William - May 14th, 2013 at 6:53 PM
I am very much in support of educating and pouring into the international communities (and domestic ones too) that our children come from and I thoroughly believe God is interested in this reconstructive work. I think the world of the first parents of my adopted children (not so much of the parents of my bio kids) and I often think of the tragic decisions and circumstances that have occurred leading these children to my home.

The only thing that really hits my heart wrong, and more importantly my theological antennae is when we think God is working His Plan B. He is not sadistic or unloving, but he is beyond our ability to reason. God's sovereignty is something that is more important and crucial than what I might think has to be Plan A.

Much love to all of you!
Lauren G - May 14th, 2013 at 7:42 PM
I am very much in agreement with what William said. I don't believe there are Plan B's with God, even though it might appear that way. We see things in a very narrow and linear way, but God has a much broader plan and perspective than we could understand. God placing a child with an adoptive family is not just an afterthought when the family they were originally with didn't work out. It was part of His plan from the beginning of time. It wasn't plan B. Everything He does is always fulfilling the purposes of His heart. I don't believe He desires the heartache and corruption that you describe in this post, but I do believe He is Sovereign in all things.
Shasta - May 14th, 2013 at 10:25 PM
I was adopted and while I struggled with self identity as a teen (most teens do whether adopted or not) I do not have pain or sorrow from my adoption. I fully believe I am where I am supposed to be, living the life God intended for me and that was all through adoption. What hurts my heart more is reading that adoptive parents voice that they would rather have their adopted child with the bio families if possible. I think if I heard my adoptive parents say that it would hurt worse than the fact that my bio mom gave me up. God's plan A for me was adoption and I thank Him for that and for the passion to adopt myself.
Jennifer - May 14th, 2013 at 7:11 PM
Yes. Yes. and no. I agree with almost everything you've said and I'm glad that you've said it. My only exception is the plan B part. I'm not sure I believe God ever has a plan B. He is all knowing and sovereign over the affairs of men. Psalm 139:16 says, "Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

Adam and Eve's sin did not surprise God or cause him to come up with an alternative plan for us. Jesus redemptive work on the cross was always plan A and God is still working out His good purposes in us, even in this fallen, sinful world. I believe that God can work through our sin, and misguided good intentions, just like he did in the life of Joseph when his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt. Genesis 50:20 "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. "

However, like Romans 6:1,2 state, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin (or act on misguided good intentions) that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? " Which brings me full circle to agreeing with everything else you've said in your article above. Thanks for the thoughtful post. Looking forward to Part 2.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 7:20 PM
Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. We'll probably just part ways theologically on that, which is okay. ;0) I don't believe God sovereignly orchestrates corruption or deception or abuse or trauma, which so often creates orphans, so in that regard, I believe He sovereignly repairs and redeems what the enemy and sin have stolen. Many factors are at work on this earth, including Satan and sin and self. But we shall save this discussion for another post! Much love to you. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
Jennifer - May 15th, 2013 at 7:12 AM
I don't think we have to part ways theologically. I agree with you above. I never said I believe God's sovereignly orchestrates corruption, etc. But He does allow it and he can and does work his good purposes through it anyway. Does that give us a license to sin? No! We are still responsible for our actions and we/others must often suffer the consequences of our sin (though by grace/mercy Christ has paid the penalty for our sin). We are to use our freedom in Christ to live lives filled with His Spirit not of our flesh (Galatians). I agree with Lauren and Shasta above. I think maybe where we part ways is in our definitions of what "plan B" means but that's not important to this discussion. Thanks again for the your posts. They are challenging and real.
T.R. - May 14th, 2013 at 7:23 PM
God doesn't plan for women to lose their children. He doesn't ask women in Uganda to carry the children for women in the USA. Yep, sometimes it (adoption) is lovely and needed and it all works out. BUT ... There are powers and principalities and agents at war in the spiritual realm. God is not choosing this hardship and evil and injustice. It is not God-like to ruin one woman for the sake of another woman. If we think poor people's kids are planned for us, then who is to say our kids are not planned for someone richer than us?
Erica - May 14th, 2013 at 7:28 PM
I would love for you to check out two groups I am familiar with that actively work in orphan prevention and child trafficking prevention: Bring Love In in Ethiopia bringlove.in and Asia's Hope in Cambodia, Thailand, and India www.asiashope.com. Both rely heavily on local, host country parenting and intervention, both focus on placing older orphans in local families and supporting them, and Bring Love In has a program for us to sponsor families in crisis so that they wont be split up. Bth love and follow Jesus. I hope these resources are helpful as people consider different ways to address the international orphan crisis.
Tara - May 14th, 2013 at 7:58 PM
This discussion needs to happen. It's long overdue. Thanks for going here.

With the amount of money involved in international adoption along with your spot-on statement, "There are very real orphans all over the earth, but most of us don%u2019t pursue the kids there are; we pursue the kids we want, and these countries know the score", I am led to believe that there is some type of corruption or unethical practice in every single adoption process. That's not saying that there is trafficking involved in each process, but some big or small piece that is not completely ethical.

I continually ask myself the questions... does the end justify the means? Do the means justify the end?

*Knocking my head on the wall.* I just don't have all the answers...
Darren Sapp - May 14th, 2013 at 7:58 PM
I%u2019m glad for this qualification, %u201Cnot saying always; I am saying sometimes.%u201D David Smolin and Kathryn Joyce would have us believe the opposite. Melissa Harris-Perry said %u201Cthe history of transnational adoption has been rife with abuse.%u201D They either have impure agendas or fail to adequately present the situation. We need to fix the sometimes. We need to be the leader in fixing the sometimes.
Jacqui G. - May 14th, 2013 at 8:09 PM
This is a thought-provoking article. Three years ago, our pastor's wife - devastated by the conditions she observed during a mission trip to Haiti - rented a house, hired a housekeeper, and filled it with orphans and street kids. "Mission Haiti Helping Kids" has now expanded to three homes. Some of the kids have no parents, others were abandoned, some have parents but prefer to live in the orphanages, and the status of some is unknown. Maybe this is a Bandaid solution, but "Miss Diddi" is providing a warm bed, regular meals, and (most important) unconditional love. The kids attend school, raise chickens and goats, go on trips to the beach, and someday will leave the orphanages, better equipped for adult life in a difficult environment.

Instead of going through years of red tape and thousands of dollars to bring a child to Canada, concerned people can donate money or time to help these children. You can see the results at http://www.missionhaitihelpingkids.org/
Missy - May 14th, 2013 at 8:14 PM
So glad ethics is being discussed. When we stepped up last year to discuss agency ethics, the Christian adoptive community repeatedly begged us to pipe down since we were doing "the work of the Devil". Hopefully, eyes are opened and hearts are changed. He asked us to DEFEND THEIR CAUSE. That is what we should be doing.
Our story (the parts we have chosen to tell) is here: http://www.roepnack.blogspot.com/2012/08/beauty-from-ashes.html
Megan J - May 14th, 2013 at 8:19 PM
". Orphans are real and some kids really need families, and I personally know scads of your above-board stories. So many of our kids had no option for reunification or extended family or in-country adoption."

This is why I hope to one day win the lottery. As a single 22 year old woman, I have already completed my foster care training. The goal is for family reunification, always, but when those parents are not fit parents, I want to be able to adopt. God has called me to be a mother and raise children in a Jesus loving home and I have realized that I don't have to wait to find a man to do that! Some day I will win that lottery! Until then, I continue working a minimum wage job so that I can someday afford an apartment and start my process. There are plenty of older children in this country (as many have said) that need parents and love. I hope to one day be able to provide that. With the best of luck, one day we (as a family) might even be able to go to those other countries and make a difference.
MS - May 14th, 2013 at 8:21 PM
I think Hague adoptions help prevent some of the unethical parts from occurring in adoption. Our son's birthparents signed over their rights at birth and he went straight ot an orphanage from the hospital. We know their names and why they gave him up. So sad, but no question about his beginnings.
Andrew Hanauer - May 14th, 2013 at 8:24 PM
This is absolutely right on. Americans with big hearts are so quick to want to save kids in other countries, but what about examining why they might need "saving" in the first place? What about all of us in the West doing more listening and less presuming? It's not black and white, and there are definitely times when adoption can be great, but I think it's really important to question the typical narrative and this piece does a great job.

Here's a piece I've written on how people in the west can help those in developing countries. Hope people find it interesting and/or helpful:
Faith - May 14th, 2013 at 8:34 PM
I find it interesting that some people assume that if an adoption is international, and the birth parents are still alive that the adoption must have been forced or in some way unethical. We have three children adopted domestically here in North America. Their birth parents are all alive and were in no way forced to place their children for adoption. They were presented with options for keeping their child, were told by social workers what financial options would be available if they kept their child, and yet still chose to place their children for adoption. I don't think any mother should be forced into adoption for her child, but some birth mothers both here and internationally do chose adoption for their child. We should not always assume that something unethical has taken place just because their birth parents are still alive.
alicia Carlson - May 14th, 2013 at 8:43 PM
Faith I totally agree with you!
Megan - May 15th, 2013 at 4:27 PM
However there is a big difference between a mother choosing to give up her child in a third world country as compared to in the US. For one, in many of these countries birth parents do not really understand what adoption is. They think they are agreeing to let their child go live in the US so that they can make money and one day come back and provide for them. Secondly, in the US we have lots of government aid programs that would help a struggling single mother raise her child. In a third world country there is often none of that. Is it really a fair choice when no one is there offering the mother services to help her raise her child? When the only person there is someone offering to take her child and give them to a rich American couple?
David & Candace Roberts - May 14th, 2013 at 8:34 PM
We are an adoptive family. One little 3 year old (special needs bone disorder from China) and awaiting 2 more this year (2 year old special needs and 13 year old special needs aging out this year - been in since birth).

I am slightly concerned at this article. There are lots of abuses, yet there are mass amounts of legitimate orphans all over the world. All of our adopted children are from China and over 90% of all the children in each of my child's orphanages will never see the light of day for a family - EVER. I know there is no real or legitimate way to get a valid statistic to a valid orphan vs. one corruptly entering the system through coercion, corruption, etc. Too many corrupt and often useless governments to have any statistical accuracy. I agree in many ways the system is setup for abuse, but much of this is due to corrupt governments and agencies. Much of the money spent on int'l adoption relates to Hague guidelines and process' to avoid issues as described in this article. You cannot have your cake and eat it to by saying we should better spend our tens of thousands on programs that often, and in most cases globally, DO NOT exist. Just my thoughts below on 3 statements:

"God did not intend these children for my wealthy home and accidentally put them in Ethiopian wombs. Does God not weep for birth moms who were tricked? Who were coerced? Who were so vulnerable?" - Biblically, this is ripe for debate. It is inflammatory rhetoric to drive a point home, however it is not necessarily Biblical in many cases. We don't tell our children what we think they will want to hear so they don't associate God with something negative in their life. God is bigger than that.

"What would happen if we reallocated a percentage of the millions we spend on adoption toward community development?" - show me this program in China and I will start giving tomorrow. Many of the countries that allow adoption absolutely would not allow outside organizations to come in with programs relating to community development. China is a prime example. Don't discount China as "unrelated to the article content" since they account for over 25% of the world's population...

"Adoption is the worst place to enter armed with nothing but good intentions." - COULD NOT AGREE MORE, however many families that come in with ill fated intentions end up seeing the reality of the issues and get heavily involved to change much of the bad. Not all, but many I have seen were completely changed by adoption, and for the good, not the bad.
Patty - May 14th, 2013 at 9:09 PM
The issue is huge in China too. We've adopted 4 times from China and have since learned that 3 of the adoptions were intentionally fraudulent (one as an infant, two as aging out teens). I have a personal letter from the CCCWA themselves stating that they do NOT check the truthfulness of a child's file and that adoption agencies are NOT authorized to check the truthfulness of a child's file. No one is accountable. This leaves the door wide open for corruption. Orphanage directors are sending their OWN kids here for education disguised as orphans. No joke. Jen is right on. Something has to change.
David & Candace Roberts - May 15th, 2013 at 9:43 PM
Patty - I don't disagree that corruption exists. My issue is laying the blame at the foot of adoptive families when the corruption is built by governments, orphanages (often directors) and sometimes agencies. Adoptive families are at the absolute bottom of the list of possible entities to legitimately get real answers and laying the guilt and blame (complicit...) at their feet is quite frankly shocking. Many families have already contacted us freaking out at what they assume is a legitimate mindset in this article and it is in many ways, dead wrong. James 1:27 commands us to take care of orphans. It did not have a postscript "assuming the system was devoid of corruption"... The Bible assumes corruption exists everywhere and in all systems. Jen's lays the guilt and blame much on adoptive families and this is wrong. A more legitimately directed article would have been more accurate and well received as right. This article has been critiqued very little in many of the posts/responses. It provided 0 statistics and only one vague case study. Take China as a case in point - they provide 25% of the world's population and likely 25% of the world's orphans. A small single digit % of orphans are ever adopted. The one's that are would likely stay right where they are if we took this article at face value and dried up demand, thereby thinking we have solved the supply corruption. Orphans are not a product like diamonds. They will ALWAYS be in production. You cannot control supply by drying up demand. The blame for the corruption is not the adoptive families. That is reversing the victim/perpetrator roles...
Jenn V. - May 16th, 2013 at 10:58 PM
James 1:27 - %u201CPure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and REFUSE TO LET THE WORLD CORRUPT US.%u201D Being aware of corruption and fighting is in the same sentence as the command to care for widows and orphans.
It also doesn't specifically say to adopt, it says care. Adoption as THE solution is an interpretation of this verse, there are many other ways to care for orphans in addition to adoption.
David & Candace Roberts - May 15th, 2013 at 9:48 PM
Patty - I also think that the Hague Convention and governments are the only ones in a position to change the backdrop to the process... I can see governments not requiring their agencies in country to validate truthfulness of files. In mass amounts of cases, that is impossible. In China, orphanage directors don't send their own kids into the system due to a supply/demand issue. If that is documented and valid, it would be because of the evil that exists within the worldview and culture created by the government (atheistic communism) that produces more orphans than any other country in the world. Blaming it on adoptive families and calling them complicit is pretty disingenuous.
Avey - May 14th, 2013 at 8:35 PM
Fantastic post. THANK YOU!
Can't wait to read Part 2.
Christina - May 14th, 2013 at 8:35 PM
Lindsey Bell - May 14th, 2013 at 8:37 PM
Very thought-provoking article. There's one thing I question...Is it possible that sometimes God does intend for an adopted baby to be with his adopted parents? I'm sure I'm asking this b/c I feel this way about my son, but bear with me...His birthmother (whom I adore) decided at 8 months pregnant to choose adoption. My hubby and I were not pursuing adoption. In fact, we were still grieving the loss of our third child to miscarriage. Birthmother contacted us and asked if we were interested. (She knew our story and knew how much we longed for a child). When we met her, she asked us what name we were thinking. When we said Caden (our child's name), she began crying. She too had chosen that name for him when she was planning to parent. Things like that happened over and over again with our adoption. To me, that was evidence that God has his hand in the adoption. That Caden was meant to be our son. So...although I certainly agree that most often God grows a baby in the womb of the one he intends to raise him/her, I think there could be exceptions. Maybe choosing adoption is what leads a young woman to the Lord. Maybe choosing adoption is what starts someone on the path God longs for them to enter. Maybe God does, at times, intend for a baby to be raised by someone other than his birthparents. Just some thoughts. Still pondering. Wonderful post and something we all need to think about.
Shell - May 14th, 2013 at 8:41 PM
Great, great, post.
Angela Parlin - May 14th, 2013 at 8:46 PM
Thanks so much, Jen, for caring about the truth, and caring more about the children and families than about the adoption movement. This was much needed, and I look forward to part 2!
Jamie Reinhold - May 14th, 2013 at 8:56 PM
Having adopted four children domestically, we are not strangers to the world of adoption. I think these are great questions to ask, and we should all be in favor of what is honorable in the sight of the Lord. But for all my fellow adopters I also think, though, that if you have already adopted a child, you should not beat yourself up over what is past and what you might not have known. We can rest in God's ultimate sovereignty and yet move forward in a way that is perhaps more circumspect. Ideally it would be better if there were not swarms of children that would not be raised with their biological parents, but I am still thankful for the hearts of adoptive parents. That said I think it should not be their burden alone to bear, but that of the entire visible church.
Catherine A. - May 14th, 2013 at 9:08 PM
I know it is true. I was having coffee with a friend, discussing my sister's adoption of a little Chinese girl, when a friend of hers dropped by. She shocked me by casually acknowledging that her son and daughter-in-law had also adopted in China and knew very well that the baby's mother had been paid by the government to hand over her child for adoption. I was shocked and disgusted, and we almost got into a shouting match right then and there. I've never felt the same about my own sister's adoption, always haunted by the thought that my beloved niece has a mother who may have had her child kidnapped. I think it's highly unlikely, considering the reality of child abandonment in China, but I wonder. I have bad dreams about it. How would WE feel if it were happening to American children?
MamaPoRuski - May 14th, 2013 at 9:13 PM
Although this is possible in some cases I do believe most disabled children are still given up because they are seen as a curse and burden to a family. Even with support our children's family did not want them. And even when they are home with us now they want nothing to do with them, nor want us to contact anyone else in the family because of their shame. Not only do we need to support birth families, but also work on cultural change on the perception of disabilities, make their countries more accessible for schools, work, public places, housing etc. This takes work on the ground, by governments, missionaries and passionate nationals. It takes years. In the meantime the children sit at an orphanage waiting and waiting for the family to never come, or die waiting for the medical procedure or care that is not available to them there. Love the comment "we don't pursue the children who are". AMEN! There are so many legally free and waiting available orphans, start there!
sj - May 14th, 2013 at 9:14 PM
This is something that is so close to my heart, and I am so grateful for the eloquent way in which you have addressed this issue. I (and my now ex-husband) adopted three children from Ghana three years ago and we were told one story by our agency state-side, another story by our in-country coordinator and after we returned home, little by little we learned from our children (who were 8, 6 & 2 when we brought them home), that they are indeed NOT orphans and all three stories were COMPLETELY different. The children were sold (they remember being sold and the exchange of money) the oldest kidnapped- an arranged kidnapping. When the oldest was caught up enough to read the original paperwork, we let him read the original adoption paperwork we received before we traveled and he told us that none of it was true. He told us that his family was still alive and told us about his parents and his brothers and sister. He still talks about his brothers and how he misses them. They were threatened and told not to talk about this, which is why it took them a while to tell us about it. This is an issue that has so many sides to it. Ghana, just today, announced that they have temporarily stopped processing all adoptions to investigate them. I have to admit some relief, in the hope that something will be done. Going into this, I thought I was adopting siblings who had lost their parents, and I've learned that not only are my children not even related- they are not orphans- their parents are still alive. Something MUST be done.
Ellen Billard - May 14th, 2013 at 9:17 PM
I love this: "Adoption is the worst place to enter armed with nothing but good intentions." This is a very sensitive, but important issue and I thank you for tackling it with honesty and respect. In my work as a social worker and through volunteering overseas, I have seen many sides of this issue, and none of them are easy. It breaks my heart to see older children languish in the US foster care system while babies are adopted from overseas. But then I also grieve over children languishing in orphanages overseas. In my experience, I have also seen that many of these children, now stuck in orphanages, could have avoided ending up in such a situation had the parents (who are still alive) received basic supports and interventions. I am very supportive of overseas adoption, but I think the Church is too quick to think that 1.) overseas is the only place from which you can adopt and 2.) it is somehow better to adopt a child into a loving, suburban American family than to provide aid to impoverish or sick families in need so that children can remain with their biological families. I think it reveals that while yes, we do have good intentions, we pursue what we want to believe (that all of these children are poor and helpless and in need of our rescuing) and what we want to receive (cute babies who have yet to acquire the extensive trauma histories of older children both at home and abroad). I believe there are myriad ways the Church can care for orphans, but adoption is only one small piece of that and we have to do it responsibly. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to part 2.
Hannah - May 14th, 2013 at 9:19 PM
I have been fostering a little girl for 1 year ( we took her in when she was 5 months old) and just had her newborn sister placed with us at 2 days old. To say I love and adore them would be an understatement. I have tried from the beginning to keep my heart and emotions in check, but to love and care for a child as they need..it is just impossible. As a former child services case worker I advocated strongly for parents and worked with them to have succesful reunifications. It is so hard being on the other side now. I belive God brought the girls into our lives...but we don't know if it is to care for them short term it if it will be to adopt them. Everyone I know (in the church) comes as it as this is God blessing us with them, and this is meant to be, etc. But i have cried for their mom so many nights and even though i have been a lot more invovled with her than is normal..i can't help but wonder if I should be doing more to help her. She loves the girls and has good visits with them, but lacks any support system and resources. She also has not been doing the things she is supposed to to get them back- but she wants them back.( she does not have a drug problem) It is emotionally taxing to say the least. As much as we want to be able to adopt the girls..our gain is her loss and it will be heartbreaking..please pray for us as we navigate through this. I know God loves her and wants the best for her too...not just the best for us!
Amy - May 14th, 2013 at 9:22 PM
So if you adopt an older child, do you know for certain that it isn't corrupt, because in that case the birth parents would've come for them by now? I'm asking seriously....
jmhoss - May 15th, 2013 at 10:30 AM
There is virtually no way to be 100% certain that your case isn't corrupt. Our daughter was 6 when we adopted her (considered "older child) and we were told that both of her birth parents were deceased. We even had a death certificate for the bio mom. Turns out, when we did a separate, private investigation after we were already home, that the bio. mom is indeed NOT deceased.
Christina - May 14th, 2013 at 9:23 PM
Great post uncovering a subject we need to deal with. Reminds me of the (compassionate) idea of refugee camps.... What starts out as compassion ends up with its own set of problems. Having adopted two sisters (domestically) -- older kids that people were not standing in line for -- I know that Christian love can be pretty naive. We think we're doing the world a good turn, but there is so much more to it -- so much ignorance about what it involves. And then to find out what your post revealed..... I love the idea of helping the birth families instead of glorifying adoption. Somehow, I think it would be more difficult here in the States to do that. Perhaps I'm wrong....
Bethany - May 14th, 2013 at 9:50 PM
Thanks be to God for you, Jen. This is such a tough, tough issue, and while it would be easier not to mention it, to have this discussion, to wrestle in love and holy fear of the Lord, with our minds and our hearts, is much more holy.

I will say that about a year and a half ago, my husband and I were very surprised to pretty suddenly believe that we were to adopt. I emailed you questions about ethics and you emailed me this below, which was a great start for my heart and mind's struggle:


I think I wore my family and friends out a good bit with all my circles of questions and fears and concerns and hopes and inspirations as we moved forward, finally with a local agency which would let us be dual-track for birth mother situations AND for children removed by Child Protective Services.

I had TWO different and dear Christian friends come forward to tell me quietly that they had been birth mothers before I knew them as they are now, married with multiple children now... I have no conclusions about their stories, but I held them close as I thought of the birth mothers...

I had certain refrains to try to explain my fears:

If the children are on this side of the table, and the resources are on the other side, I don't want to just move the children to the resources! We desire to move the resources to them. (This would be to where the families already ARE!)

How could I ever sit across a table from a birth mother and tell her that her child would be better off with me? If she hasn't had the chance to try? If I truly, truly believe in a God of miracles, bigger than I can even imagine! If she hasn't even seen, held, kissed her baby, held her baby to her breast?

If we see children drowning in a river, the act of MERCY is certainly to get them out of the river... but JUSTICE is to go upstream and see why they're ending up in the river in the first place - and work to stop that...

I fear for our American concept of ownership. That led me to write this in an article: "Most importantly, God led us to lay down the false idea of ownership. It turns out that my last stand against full submission to the Lord has been my home and family, which really isn%u2019t exclusively mine at all! I must admit that my children are not my own. This idea of possession is so deeply ingrained in our culture that we are almost incapable of noticing it anymore. My children are first God%u2019s children. I write now with no legal assurances that the little one daily toddling through my home calling me Mommy will be here in three months. This is the terrible angst of the in-between time, the waiting on the Lord. And yet, I am not even promised tomorrow. I am not promised tomorrow for any of my children - not the ones who%u2019ve come from my tummy and not this one who God has put in my heart. I must rest in the blessing of being a steward today for God%u2019s precious children. This precious daughter here needs somewhere to be today. She needs somewhere to be tonight. What a privilege that the Lord has trusted His daughter with us."

I sometimes wonder - carefully I tread here - why we have so many waiting and lonely children here, for example, in our state, Texas, which is the size of South Africa. They are so ready to be loved. Why do they wait while so many Christian families wait in agony for three years for a child from around the world... Does this please the Lord? Or does he want us to meet the needs in front of us, even as we work and wait with hope and openness for all the world too...

I do not have all the answers, certainly, not one among us does. But may we have the courage and the gentleness to ask the necessary question of ourselves and our brothers and sisters.

Lord, may our offerings be pleasing to you and not just an extension of our sin...
Heather Wolf - June 1st, 2013 at 7:40 PM
You are so right! I was told by our agency that there are many African American babies placed for adoption that are never adopted. Especially the boys. I couldn't believe it. When I was researching both options, I never realized that there are families lined up for white babies and African American and Hispanic babies in this country who grow up in foster care because there were no families to adopt them. This is so prevalent that many agencies offer adoption "subsidies" (discounted babies) for families who adopt African American boys. There is something deeply wrong in a system that sweeps that dirty little secret under the rug. I am sure that more people waiting for a "healthy white baby" would line up to adopt the babies and young children who languish in foster care, if only they knew.
Mary - May 14th, 2013 at 9:52 PM

The US foster care industry deserves as much attention as the international adoption industry. It is often considered less exotic or sensationalized because of it's context but just as deserving of a critique if not more.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - May 14th, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Well, of course I love your bravery in sharing and I love your beautiful heart. And I love when you talk about food, but that's for another day... I just read all 195 comments, so I assume my medal will be shipped tomorrow?

Two things. 1) It's important to remember that not all International Adoption is born from poverty. As the Mom of two Korean boys, the issues are simply different, pertaining more to patriarchal social constructs than an inability to materially care for the child. Both issues are obviously challenging (understatement) and layered and the implications on adoption and our appropriate responses would naturally differ. (I know you get this, just making the distinction.)

2) I agree mostly with the point about adoption being a Plan B, that it wasn't God's intention. But I also wildly love my daughter's birth mom (domestic adoption) and I believe her when she says that she knew from the beginning that the child wasn't "hers". I know we could parse the theology at work on a deeper level, and she would probably agree with many of our conclusions, but I worry about the shame she might feel if she read our words and interpreted them that she made the wrong choice, that she deprived her daughter of God's Plan A. She was able-bodied. She was an adult. But she wanted something for her child that she could not provide and she made the wrenching choice out of love and obedience. She didn't need money or tangible support to raise her child. She needed loving arms surrounding her as she made the hardest decision she will ever make. Instead, she faced a firestorm of people (Christians, mostly) telling her she was making a selfish choice, that she must not be a loving mother.

There is much work to be done in the way of family stabilization here and abroad, and we have to rise up and demand a better way. But we also have to take care to not paint so broadly that thoughtful, loving adoptive mothers are left in the lurch.

I KNOW you aren't implying anything opposing this. I just wanted to put it on the record.

Carry on with your rad self. We need these hard talks.
Jen Hatmaker - May 14th, 2013 at 10:44 PM
Totally true. Countries vary so wildly, it is impossible to make a blanket statement. And most definitely, some birth moms relinquish with eyes wide open, some are terminated and rightfully so. There are so many nuances in adoption, this conversation is wrought with landmines. I hope to make some of these distinctions more clear in the second installment. Because absolutely, in some cases, adoption is the right answer and is fully ethical. This is such a great conversation, and I'm so glad we're having it. I think the adoption community coming together here is very, very powerful. Who knew this was so complicated????
Christina - May 14th, 2013 at 10:28 PM
Thank you for raising a discussion around such an important topic. Personally, I have noticed, with concern in my heart, how adoption has become (for lack of a better word) popular/trendy in Christian circles. Now, don't get me wrong, the Bible calls us to care for widows and orphans--I get that, I see a real Biblical need here in the U.S. and abroad. My concern arises with motives in adopting and the adopting parents expectations--I think often they are not God-oriented motives and expectations. The truth is that adoption is hard, ugly, rewarding, heart-breaking, joyful, messy, etc. We don't adopt for ourselves, but because of the love of Christ that dwells with in us. Adoptive parents aren't perfect saints, but saved sinners, and the children they bring into their homes are in need of the same salvation that their new parents have undeservedly received. This is the heart attitude that I had to learn (and am still learning at times) through adopting my niece and nephew with personal challenges, as toddlers. I am thankful for the love that God has placed in my heart for them. I am thankful for how their place in our family has pushed me to be more Christlike. But, honestly, parenting an adopted child can be really hard--I wish others were more honest about this--about both it's beauty & ugliness. That is why I have appreciated your comment about not entering into it with only good intentions. I think we really need to examine our hearts when adopting, to ask God to lay bare any wrong motives, and that our adopting would really be for His sake not what we are comfortable with. Is it possible, that at the root of these corruptions, lay wrong motives in adopting--that a demand for pretty babies has led to the above sad circumstances you have described? This saddens me because there are so many children that sincerely do need homes--but these may not be the perfect babies we are comfortable with--but rather children with illnesses, and different challenges: biologically or perhaps a history of abuse--and I am speaking from my experience here--adopting these children will be hard, and honestly, it will be hard to love them at times--but it will also be lovely because the love that dwells in us richly is not of ourselves, but of Christ--and these children that aren't perfect will help us to see our imperfections, now needy we are--how alike we are to them--needy for the one true Savior.

Also, I have often wondered what more could be done to help the fathers in the "single mom" situation--wishing that there could be both more help (education, encouragement, etc.) for those true single parents, but then someone reaching out to the fathers---because honestly, most of these children aren't truly fatherless--they have fathers, who don't know how to be fathers--true, some of them may not want to be fathers--but if even some did--wouldn't it be worth it to effect the life a child in this way?
Courtney - May 14th, 2013 at 10:56 PM
How can we guarantee that in country social reform will not be corrupt. We have all gone astray. The gospel is all we have. Adoption happens in light of the Fall and will never be absolutely purely good. Only God is purely good. Each needs to examine his own heart and seek Scripture, not statistics and blog stories, the Holy Spirit will guide our steps in orphan and widow care. Plan A B and C are all Gods sovereign plan....He will have his way with each one of us, nothing, even Satan, can stop His sovereign plan,, even in and through corrupt adoptions.
Lauren - May 14th, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Andi - May 15th, 2013 at 8:08 PM
So we should ignore what is happening even if corruption is present?
Kasey - May 14th, 2013 at 11:13 PM
"Isn%u2019t that what we want? Shouldn%u2019t intact families be our highest goal? Shouldn%u2019t we want for birth families exactly what we want for our own, if it is possible?"

So true. I have worked part time (while I'm attending college) at DHS and used to find it difficult to have compassion for the birth parents. I would supervise hour visits between foster children and their birth parents and I see how it tears apart the family. For the first two years, I could only empathize with the children. Over the last year, I have developed this deep sense of love for the parents and families. I just constantly ask Jesus to show me how he sees them. It is a fine line to walk... being a state worker (part time, at that) and encouraging/discipling the bio parents. I am in this ongoing convo with God about what it looks like for the Church to step in and really take hold of our local families. Instead of just fostering and "providing a more privileged life," my heart is to help families not only reunify, but for believers to come alongside them and let them see how much Jesus already adores them.

Such a great post, Jen. Perfect timing for me, really.
Kameron - May 14th, 2013 at 11:23 PM
both of my adopted ET children were abandoned. I know 100% for sure they were. My daughter was birthed on the floor of the jungle, left for death, in cool air awaiting hypothermia, placenta attached, bloody and dirty, waiting to be eaten by hyenas. Did you know that there is a saying more rural in ET that when the hyenas are howling at night, a baby is being eaten? That is how many women abandon their unwanted babies?

Thankfully an old woman collecting firewood heard her cry and took her to the police. My son was left on a bench at a hospital, by a woman who witnesses say was "beat up".
Trust me, I understand where you are coming from. In fact, I am getting my license in Midwifery for the sole purpose of doing something similar in ET to what your friends are doing in Haiti. But we want to really partner with local, rural community leaders and traditional birthing attendants and teach them safe birthing practices so they can better care for the mothers who are too poor or too rural to reach a health clinic. If we want to stop this orphan crisis, we better figure out how to keep moms alive, right?

But, my problem with your post is that people who hate adoption will run with it and assume that all adoptions are corrupt. Tread carefully here, or you will fuel the enemy's lies, and kids will suffer.

Oh, and regarding God placing adopted children in families, I know that God desires children to be raised in their families. But this world is sinful, and sometimes that doesn't happen. And I KNOW for a fact that my adopted children were destined to be a part of our family. Yes, in a perfect world, they would be in ET. But they were born into broken situations, and we were the next best thing in the eyes of the Lord. So please do not discredit their placement in our family.
Deed - June 2nd, 2013 at 6:57 AM
What is ET?
Lily - June 3rd, 2013 at 9:00 AM
I think ET is shorthand for Ethiopia?
Kameron, I've no doubt that your children were divinely placed in your family. What an incredible history and amazing stories they have. I am sure you are a mutual blessing to one another. I don't think it's cases such as these Jen was really addressing. I'm sure it's like any piece of writing; you make a focus point, while recognising that you are not giving a summary of all points regarding that topic. And we do need this rarely discussed point to be brought up because it does happen. It's not all that happens and it's not the only way children come into adoption, but it happens. Recently Ethiopia decided it no lover wanted to partner with Australia in international adoptions and gave reasons very similar to the ones discussed in this blog entry. They wanted to try to assist families more so that children might remain in their families.
Being married for 8 years to my darling Ethiopian husband, we've stayed together in Ethiopia a few times and have also attracted to us people who are adopting from Ethiopia due to our connections. We have come across many adoption stories.
Some are sad for the families; one family waited 6 years for their children because the assistant at the agency thought it easier to get a rubber stamp made rather than go to the courts and get papers legally stamped. All affected papers went to the back of the line and added years to the wait.
Other stories, several of them involve deception. One family were told their new children's birth parents had died, only to find that the day they left at the airport, a mother and father pulled up in a Jeep and bid their daughters goodbye, telling them they'll be staying with this other family and will come home some day after they get a good education.
I think in order to ensure a good relationship with partnering countries, it's important we highlight and hopefully weed out some of these deceptions so that we CAN continue to support the families and children who truly need to be paired together. Or else there WILL be more sweeping decisions made like that of Ethiopia's in regards to Australia... just as not all adoptions are transparent, not all adoptions are damaging, and to lose these relationships would be heartbreaking.
Rory - May 14th, 2013 at 11:42 PM
Jen, I really appreciate you have the heart, and guts to tackle this topic. I appreciate that you can also speak from some personal experience and some of your connections. I'm gonna be straight up honest though. I am really holding out for post #2 here because honestly? This topic is way too meaty for you not to have some heavy duty factual content to back it up. "Word on the street" is not good enough my friend. It's just not. And I mean that with all due respect, and with no disrespect to anyone's personal story out there.
Tara B. - May 14th, 2013 at 11:46 PM
Hi Jen,
Thanks so much for raising this discussion and graciously, humbling wading through the comments. This is hard. Adoption is hard. The journey for all 3 of the triad is hard. No one will have all of the answers to this discussion, but we can lean in and listen to each other. Each one's experience is different and precious and I hope we will remember never to negate or discount another for the sake of being "right" or "offended".

I'm an adoptive parent, orphan care leader, adult adoptee and one of the "orphans" that the adoption community tends to speak for/over. Many forget that because we are no longer little and cute, we don't hear or feel the weighty discussion that ultimately changed the trajectory of our lives as adoptees. I very much appreciate your voice here as it resonates with the contemplation I am daily having as I live out these weighty roles God has allowed me the privilege to have.

May I suggest that we also must consider the fact that every country has it's own culture, it's own issues and that in of itself lends to the relinquishment of children that we here on US soil should not think we can ever understand, explain or justify. Until we walk in an birth mother's/adoptee/adoptive parents shoes we can not speak the language of said person. We can listen, empathize, love and become their partner in the journey.

1.I whole-heartedly agree with supporting, prioritizing and empowering birth families to raise their children where possible and allowed by the foreign government while being done with the "local church" as the face of the empowerment. Do you think that empowering the "local church" to be the face of empowering their nationals to be better supported, trained and equipped would be more ideal so it's about God's work rather than an organizations work?

2."The system is geared to make us happy to keep us coming."
When you say "system" do you mean all parties involved in the adoption process?

3.I love Heartline and hope that more global orphan care entities will look at their model and approach. Their work speaks to the piece of the cultural aspect that we can sometimes over look when it comes to why a child was relinquished and whether it was truly desired by a birth parent.

4.Those of us who are the "primary critics"(I as an adoptee) aren't always welcomed voices at the table in many Christian circles amongst orphan care or adoption gatherings. It's hard not to feel "passed over" and "talked over" because we might speak a different truth into the conversation. So thank you VERY much for asking others to listen. That's really what any of us want...for others to "listen". It doesn't mean you have to agree, it just means we have to be willing to listen to those who have walked in the shoes we think we can fill with our good intentions.

5.I feel we have become inattentive to the sometimes "glamorization" of adoption within many Christian circles.
"Rather than get swept up in emotional jargon and moving videos, we must move forward soberly, carefully, thoroughly, setting any agenda aside and working like hell to protect children, birth families, communities, and the kingdom."
If adoption is the last resort and becomes the reality for a child, then we must also provide the adoptive families the support at home that they need to keep connected to God and their children(an empowering within our own country if you will). It's so important that adoption ministries/churches go beyond the Orphan Sunday and lay a foundation to walk with and equip adopting parents after they have said "yes".

6."We cannot simply hope we have no part in the sometimes%u2026we must insist on the never"
I REALLY appreciate this suggestion because unless we strive towards the never, we might become complacent with the sometimes.

I'm praying for God to continue leading you in this discussion through your next post. Thanks for your dear, sweet heart to engage us and challenge us.
Pauline - May 14th, 2013 at 11:49 PM
As a child who was adopted domestically, and has now had the opportunity to meet both birth parents (who were and still are able-bodied adults), I cannot even begin to imagine the course my life would have taken under their care as a child. Both were capable of providing physically to meet my basic needs, but neither could have given me everything else I needed to know God's love.

Both of my adopted parents have now died, but I am forever grateful for the spiritual and emotional impact they made in my life. Even as a child, I always knew I was adopted, but I never doubted I was loved. I had to deal with abandonment issues, etc, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I was given the road to walk so that I could be an encouragement to other girls who I have encountered countless times in ministry.

There is always opportunity for reconciliation - my birth father and I have a great relationship. It is not a typical father-daughter relationship, but he is a grandfather for my kids, which is precious to me. He genuinely believed he was doing what was best for me. Being able to look back, I agree.

I have experienced the redemption that comes with adoption but also been given the blessing of reconciliation too. I do not take lightly what it means to be called a child of God - I have been grafted into an eternal family. Even with all of the hurt and emotions, ups and downs, I count it all joy to have walked the road I have gotten to walk. I have come to love Psalm 40. . .it is really a picture of how God has delivered me. . .

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

I have been given a new song to sing, and others will see God's glory revealed in the crazy that is my life. : ) I am so thankful that adoption is no longer a subject to be pushed to the shadows, to be hidden, and embarrassed about. Thank you for being a place where people can have a real, raw conversation about the hard that is life, but also about the hard that God can walk us through.
Julie - June 3rd, 2013 at 8:55 PM
Thank you for your story! I'm so sorry to hear that your parents have passed, but I'm happy that adoption has provided more extended family for you and your children!

This reminds me how much I wish the model for domestic adoption in America could be universal. I wish that birth mothers EVERYWHERE had the services and resources and social works and counselors that will help in every way to make sure they could parent their child if that was their choice. And when so many birth mothers in America still feel unprepared when all of these options are available, I can't imagine how much harder it is for a woman with literally nothing to give their child in another country. I dont believe I will ever begin to comprehend the true agony and worry that they must be faced with. So many of the reasons for choosing adoption for the children FAR outweigh their financial problems and I dont think any of these services from other NGO's and churches are ever a permanent and secure enough to solve all of the complicated situations that lead someone to relinquish their rights to their child.

We cannot play God in this and determine what is best for these women and their babies. They should be given the CHOICE and not limit their options, but provide as many options as possible! I believe we should do everything we can to help these women take care of their families but not condemn them if they still chose adoption.
Kay - June 10th, 2013 at 10:04 AM
I am so happy to see this discussion! We are the parents of one birth son and four domestically adopted children...one through foster care, one from a private agency and two half sisters directly with the mother. Our children include three different ethnic backgrounds and span the age of 31-11, so we%u2019ve been at this for a long time!!

I can't imagine another scenario for my children, but I did know I wanted them to understand their birth families did not decide to leave them behind! We have made a effort from day one to have very open adoptions. We do our best to make them extended members of our family and include them in major life events. My children have may people who love them, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. I in no way fear the relationship they have with their birth families (and yes we included the entire family) it has enriched their lives and made them the awesome well rounded blessings that bring joy to everyone they meet!

K M - May 14th, 2013 at 11:57 PM
This helps my thoughts along in so many ways...First, I have three adopted siblings. They came to our family as foster children and, though reunification was the goal like it "always" is, that did not occur. Their mom had birthed them all by the time she was 18. Not many 18 year olds without a strong support system can handle 3 babies. Of course after the moment we laid eyes on them we wanted to fight for them and have them in our family forever, yet my parents tried to support their birth mom however they could. But I know how it goes, I know how the birth mom gets dubbed like she's the "opponent" esp in foster care situations. I see it even in our situation even though we always honored what was honorable about her-starting with the fact that she chose to give them life. Several years after her rights were terminated she went on to have 2 more children and she is an excellent mother for them. Our families get together often and respect one another. I was just there when she visited with her kids last month. There was so much redemption all around and Ive been pondering it ever since.

Now, I am an adoptive mom. We brought our little girl home from Ethiopia 4 months ago. Ill never forget a time when we were early on in our process,sitting around with my cousins (2 of them have adopted children) and throwing out questions like you posed. I asked, "do you ever wonder if it would be better if we sent all the money over to support natives to raise a "family" of "orphans" in their own country, I mean is adoption really BEST?" and my cousin, an adoptive momma, said without missing a beat, "NO, of course it isn't best, the BEST for them went out the door a long time ago." It was an eyeopening moment to say the least. There is just nothing simple about a broken world. I do believe adoption is one of the ways God brings redemption to it though. Pondering where we go from here is an ongoing process...looking forward to your next post!
Cindy - May 15th, 2013 at 1:23 AM
I REALLY appreciate this suggestion because unless we strive towards the never, we might become complacent with the sometimes. ~Thank you Tara. This is beautifully worded.

Jen I would like to ask how you felt when in process and reading about these same ethical concerns? What could those of us speaking up then have done to better present our thought, concerns and fears?

I am grateful that you have chosen to write about this. I know that the rhetoric will be "but what about the children with no other choice". That point is so often highlighted using emotionally charged examples, such as Shasta highlighted up above. Our kids suffering through the fallout of unethical IA are not so easy to exploit since they are real,complex human beings we are raising every day. What happens when we break their trust in humanity and shatter their hearts due to IA? Do these children deserve to wear this heavy cloak so that other children can have a home? No. That is why we must strive for NEVER.
No one set of children deserves anything more then the other. That is why we must ALL fight for ethical adoptions. I hope your voice reaches new people.

One of my favorite little programs is:


They are working hard to keep families together in Uganda and a hundred other safeguards for Ugandan families. :-)
dyan larmey - May 15th, 2013 at 1:43 AM
another link with challenging and related issues regarding adoption (pardon the title... it is not an inappropriate article but mentions the reality of what homeless kids will do on the street to provide for themselves... )

Tiffanie - May 15th, 2013 at 6:29 AM
I agree that discussions like this NEED to be taking place in all arena's of orphan care. My prayer would be that healthy brutally honest discussions would not be twisted into discouraging people from adoption nor give any follower "an out" on their personal piece of the biblical mandate of caring for orphans and widows.

I have three sons adopted from Haiti and hindsight is 20/20. My husband and I have lead short term mission trips to Haiti for 10 years and through those trips and our adoption experiences, I have had courtside seats to seeing orphans exploited, adoptive families mislead, first families torn apart, and a thousand other injustices that disturb my heart and soul to the core.

One of our sons is a "true orphan" and the other two (who are biological siblings) have a living mother. I have lost sleep since they joined our family wondering all the "what if's" in regards to "what if" we would have had the opportunity to come alongside this first family in support. Once we know better, we do better. I can't erase any part of their story or undo what has been done. But I (and other adoptive moms like Jen) can share our experiences, our regrets, and our joys in the road we are on in hopes that our past will not become someone else's future.

This I know to be true... we can romanticize adoption and orphan care but the truth is it is REALLY messy! And discussions like this help make it a little less messy. God calls us as Christians to defend the fatherless and that can look lots of different ways. For some of us it is to become adoptive parents, for some of us it is be forces of change as missionaries like the Livesays (heartline) and Clays (apparent project), and for some of us it is to support missionaries.

I am also a foster mom. We have had our current placement since she was 2 months and she is 2 years old now. I make "ammends" to my sons first family in the way I love on and support my foster daughter's biological family. Will my heart be ripped to shreds when she leaves? Of course! But she is worth it and every child deserves someone who is willing to get their heart for them!

Once we know, we can't play the role of the ostrich and bury our heads in the sand. Proverbs 24:12 tells us that "Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows we know and holds us responsible to act."

Looking forward to part two!!
Catherine - May 15th, 2013 at 7:46 AM
I would like to draw attention to the work of The Grace Centre in Bahir Dar Ethiopia as a great example of what can be done to keep families together. From what I understand, it was established and supported by a number of Australian adoptive parents.
Amy - May 15th, 2013 at 8:09 AM
So much to think and pray through in this post...

Please realize qualified families have stepped in US to adopt/foster older/special needs children... but our system is complicated, too. We're 2 years into a very heartbreaking journey wanting to adopt/foster older child (age 10-18), any race. A lot of waiting on both sides- kids needing families and families wanting to help. And nothing we do speeds it up. Meanwhile, kids age out... Frustrating.

Shane - May 15th, 2013 at 8:12 AM
Jen - You have responded to many of these comments saying that people will understand some of the ideas better when they read the next part. I think you did a huge disservice to the issue by not posting both "sides", the complete picture, in the same article.
Susan - May 15th, 2013 at 8:26 AM
My daughter was a true double orphan: both parents died from TB in rural northern Ethiopia. She was left at 7 years old to be cared for by a 14 year old sister and no other family. Her sister placed her in an orphanage where she lived for 3 years before we adopted her. My daughter has experienced so much loss. No child should have to endure this kind of grief. It breaks my heart that my child doesn't remember her first mother and that she vivdly remembers the day her first father died and that she longs to find her sister and see her again. Her situation was caused by poverty. There are many others like my daughter who are true orphans. If we (Christians) could direct our attention on alleviating poverty then we could prevent many children like this from being orphaned in the first place.
Claire - May 15th, 2013 at 8:48 AM
I am so thankful you're acknowledging the smoke and calling others to action. This has been on my heart for a while, since I've been living in Zambia for a year. I've befriended lots of orphans (single and double) who manage to survive in their communities with help from extended family and churches. I've gotten to know people involved with running orphanages here too. The biggest red flag I've seen is that families here take their children to orphanages for SAFE KEEPING. Lots of times, they consider it a TEMPORARY holding place, where their child can be ensured a meal and a roof over their head when the parents are without money. They may plan on RETURNING to bring their child home at some point when they can manage to provide. We MUST make sure that the orphanages we work with communicate the birth families' expectations as clearly as possible. I hope to adopt one day soon - definitely in the US, and maybe internationally. But I am thankful for Jen's reminder to proceed with caution, putting birth families and adoption-prevention first, finally caring for those in desperate need.
Adrina - May 15th, 2013 at 8:59 AM
I usually keep quiet on your posts but want to take the opportunity to bring attention to Ekubo Ministries in Uganda. Christie is from Alabama and George is from Uganda. This couple is raising their own children and 21 foster children. They government takes abandoned children to them and they try to reunite them with family. She explains that this has to be done almost immediately after a child comes into their home. When they are unable to get them back with family or the community they will consider IA. She has opened our eyes to so many truths. Would be a great connection for you. Christie Magera or Ekubo Ministries on Facebook. Their blog is www.compassinmyheart.blogspot.com. You will love them! Thank you for using your blog to bring awareness to these hard truths.
Vicki - May 15th, 2013 at 9:09 AM
Jen - I agree with your article on many levels. I am the adoptive Mom of an international adoption. I spent time with my daughter's birth mother and know that her adoption was what she wanted - she really had no other choice in order for our daughter's survival. I have been feeling lately from this recent post of yours and another blog I've been reading, that people are trying to blow the cover on international adoption - without giving enough credit to those agencies and birth/adoptive parents who have done things with integrity. I know that the situations with these children/parents/families run DEEP and will take generation after generation to make the changes necessary - and I agree those changes and new systems must be set up. But, I fear we also run in to set up new systems for them and forget about the kids languishing currently who don't have the time to be affected by these changes, because we're trying to save things in a different way. They still deserve homes and families and many are true orphans. Please don't forget about that piece of the puzzle - please give equal time to that part of the holy struggle we all feel in adoption. May we all continue to struggle and make God's justice and grace known.
MC - May 15th, 2013 at 9:16 AM
I struggle a little with the way some people adopt (as if they bought a pair of shoes... they are mine now and you can't ever see them again). Parenting isn't ownership, it should be a collaboration among community and family. I adopted my first child through the foster care system and I am so thankful for the biological family for teaching me what adoption really could be. Her family would invite her to family functions and I didn't realize that we were expected to come as well until a family member told me. Her biological aunt came up to me and questioned me about our intentions with our now daughter (who was a foster child at the time). She explained to me that, in her culture (Athabascan), they don't allow children to be adopted out, they adopt in families. So instead of my daughter switching from being part of one family-severing ties-now part of another family, she would have all of us. I would gain three sisters and a brother and a whole ton of nieces and nephews. This was a beautiful idea to my 22 year old brain (Yes, I was 22 when I adopted my daughter... and just idealistic enough to allow it to work). My now sister taught me how adoption can really be and I am so thankful to her. Are we really close? Well, we live in different states now so we don't hang out all the time, but we are family and I am so thankful to have all of them when raising our child. She is now grown and still has access to her entire biological family. I wish that it was easier to do that with my adopted daughter from Ethiopia. We are working on it, we refer to her mom as "Mama (her name)" and we plan to visit when my daughter is old enough to understand more. My family has visited her family in their village and we are working on relationship building but we also know it will take some time to have what we have with my oldest. They were welcoming and I have beautiful video and photos of my daughter's parents with my own parents. I can't wait to go there and spend a few weeks so that she can meet them and build a relationship with them... We have family in Ethiopia... they just don't know it yet. ;-) I wish that it were easier to keep the strings attached.
BB - June 18th, 2013 at 1:44 PM
Thank you, MC. We adopted our three children, all born here in Michigan, and have an open relationship with their birthfamilies. Many people who know this look at us like we have three heads, and I thought the same of open adoption before our first son was placed into my arms. "Parenting isn't ownership." That's right. THANK YOU.
David - May 15th, 2013 at 9:25 AM
Adoption did not originate with man; it originated with God. It is first and foremost a picture of our salvation. The joy of our spiritual adoption into God%u2019s family came at a great and terrible cost. All adoption is joy mixed with pain. But if we allow the evil of human trafficking to stop people from adopting then the consequences of that evil are increased exponentially. The answer to human trafficking isn%u2019t keeping more kids in orphanages while we try to figure out how to keep families intact. We will do our best to be on guard against the evils of child trafficking. But we will not allow that evil to stop us from picturing God%u2019s love for us by caring for those who cannot care for themselves.
Michelle - May 15th, 2013 at 4:23 PM
Exactly. Wonderful point.
Amy - June 1st, 2013 at 6:46 PM
Amen! I totally agree.
I also think calling adoption God's plan B is a VERY slippery slope and I thoroughly disaree. We serve an all knowing God, we are not all knowing. We should not be making judgements on what HIS plan was and is and labeling things A,B,and C. The last 2 blog posts on this subject are much more realistic. This one however I think is good in shedding light on "trafficking" but to label adoption a plan B when many who adopt have endured infertility and been called to adoption is ridiculous. No one would tell their adopted child that they are their parents as a result of God's plan B so let's not label it as that.
Megan - May 15th, 2013 at 9:32 AM
Orphan prevention: When we lived in Kenya we became aware of many HIV positive women who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer who could not afford surgery to cure the cancer so they were basically left with no option for treatment. Many of the women were young mothers and although HIV positive were in the HIV program and on ARVs and could be expected to live long and healthy lives. (My husband was the MD at the hospital running the HIV program). We decided to stand in the gap for these women and by giving $10,000 by last count almost 35 women had their surgeries funded. I consider that orphan prevention. All of those women were given a chance at life to raise their children, work to provide for them and more importantly LOVE their children. It was so easy. Too easy. Boom - just like that a whole bunch of women were given another chance and a whole bunch of kids get to keep their moms for a lot longer. We have to look at every angle of this problem to provide solutions.

I've come full circle on adoption so I try to have grace and understanding when I hear the sentiments of people who want to adopt at any cost. But over the last several as I've read blog after blog of adoption stories and seen many of our friends walk different roads of adoption I have been scared to death by what I see. Such good intentions but, oh my, it goes wrong somewhere along the way. We've always wanted to adopt a child but I am paralyzed when I go approximately 1cm below the surface. Thanks for starting this conversation. I really hope people listen.
Emma - May 15th, 2013 at 10:23 AM
Super important considerations. This is something that I've been concerned about for a while - thank you for your good words on this hard, hard subject.

This is such a complicated issue, and as you've pointed out, adoptive parents want to help. I would heartily recommend the book _When Helping Hurts_ to anyone who wants to be better equipped to interact with the world and its people.

You've alluded to one issue of mindset that can make us vulnerable to complicity in adoption corruption: the unquestioned assumption that children are better off in a financially prosperous country than in a poor one, automatically better off in a midwestern suburb than in their birth country. Unfortunately, this assumption underlies a lot of well-intentioned helping efforts. If we really want to help, we need to examine our prejudices and assumptions. Sometimes this will reveal uncomfortable truths about our own hearts. But if you really want to do anything worthwhile - that painful process is so necessary.

Cross-cultural, international adoption can certainly be a beautiful thing when handled well and properly. And in saying this, I'm not at all denigrating anyone's efforts to provide a family for children in any country who are alone and in dire situations. Not at all. But maybe one thing we can do is to not overlook the kids in our own country, either. The foster care system right here is overflowing. In my state there are even programs to keep the costs of local adoptions extremely low. I once looked over their list of kids needing permanent homes - heartbreaking. I so wish I was in a position to adopt one or several of these young girls, to give a teen girl a place to call home, maybe. I'm not in a place where I can do that. But there's gotta be someone out there who is.
Lisa - June 4th, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Great Book...When Helping Hurts...a must read for anyone who wants to "help" others.
Cheryl - May 15th, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Hope you read Erica's blog at [email protected]; a thoughtful and respectful balance from another view
Ami - May 15th, 2013 at 12:02 PM
I went looking to read the article. :) Here is the corrected link: http://lalalablackbird.blogspot.com/2013/05/adoption-from-my-world-view.html
Brian Jacobson - May 15th, 2013 at 11:22 AM
It seems a bit petty to say so, because what you're doing in this article is so necessary (and illuminating), but I think you've overstated your theological case about adoption necessarily being a "plan B".

The theological crunch takes place at the point where God's Sovereignty and our sinful and fallen world (along with sinful and fallen humanity) collide -- and where it seems you have opted to articulate the perspective that somehow God is working out divine contingency plans in the face of sin; as if He purposed every child to every family FOR that family, only to be confounded by the fallen creation and then have to fall back on the lesser option of bringing some other family in to adopt the child.

This perspective, it seems to me, makes less of God.

A more theologically nuanced position, I think, would affirm that there are indeed times (and probably many times) where God does in fact use one woman's womb to produce a child for another person/family, and that this was part of His good plan from the beginning (after all, God was neither surprised by sin nor caught off guard by it). AND it would affirm that in a system that allows for our sinfully-shackled free will, and therefore for corruption, there are times (and indeed many times) where a grave injustice is done in separating child from mother.

You seem to present us with the either/or option theologically -- that no adoption could have ultimately been part of God's good purposes and that all adoptions are "plan Bs" -- but such an option fails to account (I think) for the mystery of God's Sovereign Rule from a place both inside and outside the kind of space and time that limit our ability to understand how this world can be both sinfully fallen AND ultimately part of God's "plan A".

Of course, as I stated when I began, this critique takes nothing away from the other points of your article -- and once we become aware of the corruption and the potential for corruption, we simply must (as Christians) work to safeguard and bring justice to both the supply and demand sides of the adoption industry.

Offered with gratitude, love, and an abiding thankfulness for the impact of your ministry (especially your ministry here, as we continue with discussions as a church that were started by you).

Shalom. Brian.
Jill - May 15th, 2013 at 1:27 PM
Amen, Brian. Perfectly stated. Thank you for your grace and truth, and I totally agree.
Jolene - May 15th, 2013 at 4:19 PM
God sovereignty is the most mysterious subject on earth. It was his sovereignty that saw Jesus Christ brutally murdered on a cross, an action far more sinful than even child trafficking.

I have resigned myself to never fully understanding his mysteries, only resting in his goodness, redemption, and ability to bring beauty from ashes.
Kimberly - May 15th, 2013 at 4:26 PM
Yes. Much better stated than my response. Thank you for taking the time to say this with grace. All things are ultimately for our good and God's glory.
Jen Hatmaker - May 15th, 2013 at 5:01 PM
Hey Brian! So glad to hear from you, my quirky new pastor friend. As always, love your comment and you do a masterful job of discussing the absolute conundrum God's sovereignty creates from an interpretive standpoint. My primary point is this, perhaps better stated through a reverse scenario: Say Brandon and I discovered an amazing "study abroad program" in which our children would live somewhere else temporarily, receive superior education, then come home. A foreigner explained this all to us, and we moved forward because we were not in a financial position to offer our kids something of this caliber. They go off to their program, and we discover soon after that they've been adopted by a family in another country, and we have in fact, been exploited for profit, as our kids fetched a pretty price. Then that adoptive family discovers that our kids have real parents who were manipulated into giving our kids away, and they say in response to this injustice and tragedy: "God is sovereign. These are our kids." Of course, this wouldn't happen to us because we are too rich and powerful and we'd beat down the doors of the White House to get our kids back, and the media would report it as trafficking and child abduction. Instead, the Christian community in a reverse scenario says simply, "God is sovereign." You make a fine point about not reducing it to an either/or situation, and you are right. My main point was calling out the travesty of Christians refusing to call out an injustice and instead laying the entire debacle at God's feet, knowing He would never endorse lying, trafficking, stealing, manipulating, and deceiving. His Word is at least clear on that. So to your thoughtful response, I land on this: "the mystery of God's sovereign rule" is indeed a shockingly difficult concept to interpret, but it doesn't give us license to reap the benefits of sin and corruption under the umbrella of "God's will." I wish we could sit down over coffee and talk about this for hours while you twirled your mustache. Think of all the issues we could solve!! With all my respect and gratitude for you and your family, who I love. Thanks for popping in here...I'd expect nothing less from a favorite Presbyterian. ;0)
David - May 15th, 2013 at 7:30 PM
Jen. We adopted with you. I played with your kids at the transition home. Same agency. Same system. Do you really believe that was what was going on? Do you believe parents were being sold a study abroad program? I don't. Our little boy was abandoned but we saw birth families interviewed, interviewed, and then interviewed again. Then we all waited even more weeks while the US embassy combed every detail of our case. I do not deny that there are abuses in the system. Those abuses are terrible and we all think so. But please don't join up with those who would shut down the good that international adoption does. By all means fight against the abuse but not at the expense of that which is good and right.
Jen Hatmaker - May 15th, 2013 at 8:08 PM
I'm not talking about our agency, David. I'm taking a very high view of adoption ethics; I don't have a personal axe to grind. I will fight against the abuse and for ethical adoptions. AND. Not either/or. I have never one time said all international adoptions should end.
David - May 15th, 2013 at 8:18 PM
Are you reading the comments? Families are stopping their adoptions after reading this. It sounds at times like you are equating adoption with injustice. Lets make sure we call evil evil and good good.
Julie - June 4th, 2013 at 2:48 AM
I have always loved your blog for your ability to muster people towards adoption all while giving an accurate light to the journey of adoption because it was based on fact.

Whether you realize it or not, what people are misunderstanding of your series here... is that they now believe that example you gave of cohered birthparents is a widespread epidemic, that most adoptions are a result of fraud, and that its not a system that should is in any way ethical. The word choice that you used are causing people to panic, while this is truly not the NORM but the exception. Yes, it should be stopped, and the government is working on it, but people should not be moved to a panic like many now are experiencing because of this.

And David is right, so many people are now turning away from adoptions instead of taking up the machete to fight through the rough forrest to discover the truth like you are attempting to do. You are unconsciously turning people away from adoptions all together...

Our government is currently undergoing a HUGE change in the international adoption process to do exactly what you are talking about. Increasing family preservation while ALSO increasing the number of children joined with families. Senator Mary Landrieu who helped initiate the Hague is now trying to undo the damage done b/c it did not help the children, it only hurt them. We should not be drawing lines and taking up sides with different people with different concerns. We should instead be JOINING hands with a movement that is attempting to listen to everyones concerns and figure out how to reform a system. We should take our energy to the government level that has SO much power to actually do some good. I hope you can help to rally people in the right direction, and to take their very worries to their senators so they can determine how to vote based on the situations we have presented to them.

PLEASE watch this video! http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/webcasts.cfm?method=webcasts.view&id=07d212ed-9305-4076-959e-79759beaf941
This is the Foreign Affairs committee meeting for Children in Adversity that are weeding through the very issues you are talking about. This is real, and this is happening now. This is where we can make a difference. I LOVE what our government is doing to address this problem. They are increasing the partnership with NGO's that are doing a successful job of meeting the needs of the people, while increasing staffing in embassy's to ensure that adoptions continue to be conducted ethically. How can we not agree with that??

You have so much potential to help propel this movement and show people REAL ways to be involved. I believe, that if we REALLY want ethical adoptions continue we need to support this movement and the bill they are attempting to pass. It has yet to even be written, so all of our input now is actually EXTREMELY valuable and can directly impact the wording that they chose. Please read about this, watch this video, and I'm truly desiring to hear your response to this meeting. Thank you!

rachel - May 15th, 2013 at 9:57 PM
I guess my question is - who really believes that their kids are going off to some fantastic foreign exchange program? I mean, really? To me, this feels a lot like urban legend. When we've traveled abroad people have, much more so than here in the US, been utterly shocked that we would chose to adopt even though we have biological children. In fact, we've had several people say to us (abroad), "Wow, you must be Christians. Why else would you do that?" They really don't get why people with biological children would adopt. The Ethiopians we have met here in the US have cried and thanked us profusely. (Awkward. We are so not in the "save an orphan through adoption" camp). I have heard that first parents parents worry their kids will be sold as slaves or that their kids will be sacrificed to have their organs harvested, but really, you think people believe that Americans want to participate in a fancy foreign exchange program? To me, this just seems *really* far-fetched. I have never met an Ethiopia here who thought this (and we have talked to a lot of Ethiopians!).
graceling - May 15th, 2013 at 11:49 PM
I met 2 families in rural Ethiopia in March of 2013 who asked me when their children (adopted to the US in 2008) would be returning home. Because of the translators, I am not clear if the families thought it was a "study abroad" type program or what exactly, but they were very much under the impression that their children would be returning after they learned English and were educated. They wanted to make sure the kids were doing well and keeping up their Sidaminga.
Gillian - May 16th, 2013 at 12:19 AM
You must have missed the ABC 20/20 news story on Samoa in 2009. Several people were jailed and children were went back to Samoa because they were taken from their families for a "study abroad program". My guess is that happens so much more often that we can even comprehend.

Also, you should try to read Tara's blog (the one Jen links to). About a month or so back she goes into detail on the antiquated Haitian adoption requirements. One of their strict requirements is that you must not have bio kids. It seems like somewhat silly rule until you realize that Haiti has a terrible child slavery system in place where it's the cultural norm to believe that you could NEVER love your adopted kids as much as your bio kids. It makes sense. Maybe some of the international awe you're receiving can be attributed to more underground cultural influences such as that.
rachel - May 16th, 2013 at 5:07 PM
I guess I would just be interested in seeing some statistics before making claims like "many" Ethiopian first families believe such and such, as I am seeing on various blogs. To me, personally, it seems outlandish that a family would participate in an 18 year foreign exchange program. Since I have heard of many first families being mostly skeptical of Americans - much more so than trusting - this claim didn't pass my 'gut check' though I am definitely not saying it isn't true. I did read the Wall Street Journal report several years back about one man who did believe this. I'm just wondering if this was an outlier or if it's pervasive. We definitely don't want to take an outlier and present it as the norm. I have never met an Ethiopian who believed anything of the sort...

We donated $30,000 this year to Compassion's mother baby program and have chosen *not* to pursue another adoption because of all the claims at present surrounding Ethiopian adoption. So I know firsthand these claims do deter adoptions. I think we just need to be very, very careful that they are accurate and that we're not buy into sensationalism... on either side.
Hannah - August 13th, 2013 at 10:45 AM
what about adopting a child from foster care in the united states? i see comments often on adoption blogs where adoptive parents want to do international adoption mainly because you do not have to deal with the birth family once you leave the country with the child. it just makes me very suspicious of people who seek out IA. I do know some people who did it ethically and maintain frequent contact, including trips, to the child's hometown, but I so often see the hope to be free from the child's family of origin repeated that it does not surprise me that people want to bury their head in the sand about unethical, immoral IA practices--not that all IA is like that, but certainly there is a lot of evidence that it IS common and to rail against bringing that to light is just disturbing.
Stacy - May 17th, 2013 at 11:22 AM
Rachel, sadly it has happened all too often, and I think that cultural differences make it hard for us to understand. Here is a similar example from China: http://research-china.blogspot.com/2012/04/dark-side-of-chinas-aging-out-orphan.html.
Eloise - May 22nd, 2013 at 9:57 PM
Rachel, we received news from the US Embassy in Addis last year that they had had to build a special room where they could explain to families that their children were not coming back because the wailing was so loud. A SPECIAL WAILING ROOM. I don't know what those families were being told, but it wasn't being clearly explained, that's for sure.
Mary Hoyt - June 28th, 2013 at 1:09 PM
Rachel, this is real. It happened to a whole village in the DRCongo - a "boarding school" came and convinced them to send their kids away for an education and that they would be taken care of - several of the kids were in the adoption process when the village chief discovered what was happening and came to the city (Kinshasa) to the "boarding school" - really an orphanage selling kids to adoption agencies - and demanded that the kids be returned. I've talked on the phone to the adoption co-ordinator and adoptive families who got caught in the middle of this - just this year - this is real!
keith harmon snow - July 5th, 2013 at 5:02 AM
Mary Hoyt:

Please write to us: [email protected]


Brian Jacobson - May 16th, 2013 at 2:20 PM
Thanks for taking time to respond Jen!

I started to write a long and wordy response but deleted it all in favor of this:

Amen and amen to the pursuit of justice and the protection of the vulnerable! We dare not turn a blind eye to the evil being perpetuated in the name of "adoption", even as we attempt to celebrate all the goodness and beauty that shares in it.

Looking forward to part 2!

Stacy - May 17th, 2013 at 11:24 AM
Jen, this is a powerful example. Thank you, and thank you for bringing light to this subject!!
Laura Kelley - May 15th, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Amen, Amen and again Amen. God is speaking truth through you sister. Good golly what a good, good post.
Darby - May 15th, 2013 at 1:11 PM
Sooo glad you wrote this. I got to meet and start working with the Rileys in Uganda late last year and am now back in Austin, tasked with raising funds and raising awareness here in the US about the problems there in Uganda. We are readying to take Keren's initial amazing work to a larger scale to get more and more children home, see more and more families reunited, and more and more orphanages closed. She has resettled 13 children with their birth families--the stories are incredible. I got to meet some of the families and see one mother pick Keren up off the ground and shake her in the air with joy and gratitude! Yet 50,000 children remain in orphanages there. As someone else posted, over 80% of the children in Ugandan orphanages are NOT orphans and have families they can and do go home to over the holidays. The West is essentially funding boarding schools there, most of which are not in compliance with the Ugandan government; 48% of the homes had 'poor' or 'very poor' childcare standards, 80% do not have a child protection policy (http://www.alternative-care-uganda.org/problem.html). Further, orphanages that have international adoption programs are not open to resettlement services because resettling children with their Ugandan families is not lucrative the way international adoption is. So let's not 'rescue' 'orphans,' but let's empower families (through economic empowerment, social services, parent training, etc) to bring their children home every time it's possible. Let's turn the tide back in favor and consideration of birth families.
CJ - May 15th, 2013 at 1:14 PM
Thank you for this. We were victims of an unethical adoption where crucial information was withheld from us by a reputable agency. It had devastating consequences for our family. Adoption ethics can not be discussed enough, imo!
Becky - July 17th, 2013 at 10:22 PM
So were we!! We have felt so alone! Thank you do much for this article! Our Ethiopian daughter
Did not know she was being adopted and is around six years older than we were told. Sometimes I feel
So guilty because she has a father in Ethiopia who must miss her so much. At our send off meeting he asked when she was coming back! It's heartbreaking.
Alexis - May 15th, 2013 at 1:49 PM
Great article! We have learned that adoption is not about finding a child for a family who really, really wants one. It's about finding a family for a child who really, really needs one. I think when more adoptive families realize this, they will start meeting the need, rather than creating a demand.
Jen - May 16th, 2013 at 2:19 AM
This. This. This.
Holly - May 15th, 2013 at 1:50 PM
I'm assuming you will address this in your next post, but I have personally found it challenging to run (start it up at this point) a family reunification program that incorporates family support and alternative care models where international adoption exists at the same time. The large amounts of money that comes with international adoption makes it extremely difficult, especially in a situation of a country with extreme poverty and high levels of corruption. I love the two programs in Uganda, one that is more specifically doing family reunification ReUnite (found here, they are amazing---http://rileysinuganda.blogspot.com/ and have been long spoken advocates in adoption ethics, esp. in Uganda ) and one doing both family reunification and successful domestic adoptions, Child's i Foundation (found here---http://www.childsifoundation.org/ ). Our (small) program is in eastern DRC, called Reeds of Hope (found here-- www.reedsofhope.org ).
Lindsy - May 15th, 2013 at 2:22 PM
VERY eager to hear part 2. The idea of "keeping families together" has been on my heart for a long time!
Mel @ Trailing After God - May 15th, 2013 at 2:45 PM
So well said. Something we don't really want to acknowledge but we cannot stick our heads in the sand. My 16 year old and I went to Haiti in March. I went to two different orphanages while there and it is heartbreaking. We were told often mothers will give their children to an orphanage because they cannot take care of them and they know they will at least be fed at the orphanage. Some of them even come and visit their children weekly :( The Haitian orphanage isn't run by a mission organization so there are no American dollars rolling in to help them. There's no program to help these mothers find a way to keep and care for their children. While there we also watched the birth of twins. #10 & 11 to this mama. While we rejoiced for these new lives, we also prayed for their future. I can't imagine raising a family of 11 kids in the USA (we have four and it's hard) but 11 children in Haiti? So much heartbreak. So much prayer needed in this world.
Kimberly - May 15th, 2013 at 3:02 PM
I agree with most everything you said EXCEPT I DO believe that God is sovereign, even over the traffiked kids. He could close all those doors. Not that we shouldn't fight for justice, or be informed, but there is only so much "checking" we can do. The rest is trusting in His sovereignty. What about Joseph? Was he meant to stay with his birth family, or was it God's plan and sovereignty that his brothers sold him into slavery and he became a ruler in Egypt and eventually provided food for his birth family and many others? "what you meant for evil, God meant for good." Gen 50:20

Praying families who didn't have all the answers to rest in the arms of a sovereign God. Praying, also, that we rise up and the injustice stops. Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Tera - May 15th, 2013 at 3:53 PM
Just wanted to chime in here too. Honestly, I pretty much quit reading after the writer claimed not to say it's God's sovereignty. God knew all along my daughter would be orphaned, knew all along He would send us to China for her, and so yes, I believe fully without a doubt that while she was birthed to another woman, God in His ULTIMATE authority chose her to be MY daughter. Things in this temporary life do not make sense sometimes, but God's plan was for her to hear the gospel in our home.
Emily - May 15th, 2013 at 4:35 PM
Yes! Completely agree!
TR - May 15th, 2013 at 5:10 PM
God's love for you and his "ultimate authority" included doing something very painful and difficult in the life of another woman? Is God like that? Huh. Who knew?

I guess it is good for you that God is on YOUR side and not the side of "another woman" in China. As long as God is choosing things that benefit you, this theology is going to work out awesome for you.
David - May 15th, 2013 at 7:11 PM
So...did this just slip by God? Did This little girl end up in the wrong place? I'm withTera here. I'll choose to believe Romans 8:28. God gives children in adoption and biologically. And He is to be praised for bringing this little girl to a place where she can be raised to hear The glorious gospel of Jesus Christ!
TR - May 16th, 2013 at 5:45 PM
So God doesn't have any heart for women in materially poor countries? If God caused and chose the adoption to the wealthy American family and in His authority brought the child across the ocean to the family with money --- did He not also then take the child from the poor first mom? What if powers and principalities and agents at war in the spiritual realm are what causes poverty and pain and therefore create an environment in which a poor mother is, by choice or by force, in need of relinquishing her child. What if those evil agents at war caused the corruption that made a person force her to place her child? What if we did not say GOD did evil shit to poor birth mothers? (which if you say he gave you your kid and chose a kid for you -- the guess what? He also took the kid from the first mom) What if instead we thought about it in a little bit more complex and less egocentric way? T
Jen - May 17th, 2013 at 10:53 PM
Yes. This. You nailed it T.
Tera - September 17th, 2013 at 6:01 PM
I do not believe my idea is egocentric at all. I cry over the fact that her birth mom doesn't know that she is safe and loved. I long to find her. I don't understand a lot of things God chooses to do but I know in Romans 8 that He allows the futility to happen and works everything for His glory. I do not believe we are an "American home with me" but rather a loving home filled with unworthy sinners that my Savious called to bring a child home to. She bowed to Buddha and called him by name. Now, she nows Jesus. To me- eternally this matters.
Alexis - May 16th, 2013 at 11:10 PM
I do NOT believe it is God's perfect plan for a child to be separated from biological family. However, God still IS sovereign and he can bring good from a bad situation.
J.Stef - January 14th, 2014 at 3:15 PM
I know I'm late to this discussion but here goes my reply anyway. God works all things together for good. He makes beautiful things out of horrible situations. But that does not mean He wanted those horrible things to happen. We live in a fallen world. We're broken and sinful and because of this, crappy things happen - like birth mother are forced, coerced, or feel it necessary to choose to give their child(ren) away. This is a horrible thing. This is NOT God's doing, it's a consequence of living in a fallen world. It is true, He can and does make beautiful things out of our messes. But we cannot sit idle and accept the status quo. We should be working to fix the problem that cause families to give up their children in the first place so it does not continue to happen and we certainly should not endorse the things that contribute to the problem.
Vicki Stuart - April 29th, 2014 at 7:36 AM
Sorry, God chose you to be childless! Your daughter was born to her rightful mother.
Vicki - May 15th, 2013 at 3:59 PM
Amen Kimberly! God is Sovereign and I can't agree with someday telling my daughter that her place in our family is "Plan B" for her. She'll have enough issues due to the situation she was born into that we will have to explain someday - but "plan B" will not be part of that story. God knew her days before she was formed.
Mrk - May 15th, 2013 at 4:38 PM
Jen, Thank you for the post, as this is now recently making the regular news, mostly to paint Christians as opportunists. I am the father of two IAs who would have stayed in the institution as even extended family wanted nothing to do with them (for reasons not mentioned) I think in all things we need to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves." I don't agree that God can't work evil for good--the life of Joseph in Genesis is a perfect example. That said, I think we as Christians need to be wise in ALL we do, not just adoption. Let me give a few examples:
1. Short-term missions. How do we know we aren't being fleeced, undermining local missions, giving young people a false impression of missions, meanwhile creating a $6B/yr tourist industry with little to now Gospel results.
2. Mercy Ministries. How are we sure we're not enabling those in need with out addressing their spiritual poverty?
3. Church plants. How do I know I'm not hurting the local church ministries by my existence. Do I really care why my first 100 members left their neighboring churches?
4. Giving birth. When am I giving birth to too many kids that I strain my local church body to help out? Am i being selfish in my decision to have children in the same way these adoptive parents motives are called into question?

Jen, I think there is alot of emotion tied to your article, related to your own adoptive process. I did not read anything in it that explored your own motives--and if they were, in fact, pure, when you decided to adopt. I wouldn't assume otherwise, but the tone of the article suggests differently.

At the end of the day, we should try to "never tire doing good" If our motives are pure, God will bless it. God can even make good from evil intentions(yes he's THAT sovereign.) I think all parents need to explore their motives as to why they want to: adopt, foster, give birth--as well as enter any ministry--to ensure God is glorified and not ourselves.
Sue - May 15th, 2013 at 5:35 PM
Good awareness to think about and pray for God's will
Kathy J - May 15th, 2013 at 6:10 PM
Interesting, some good points however as the parent of two adopted children from Russian, I can attest that there is corruption, which is why you must really research your agency thoroughly. My first question for the author is, "Did she examine her own motives for adoption before she ventured on this journey. Were her intensions God centered and prayerfully considered? So many people wear their adopted children and their biological children for that matter like a badge of honor and that is sinful. Also, we can not look at the situation in some of these countries through our American eyes, where we live in a country that advocates on the behalf of birth parents firstly, provides a well financed foster care system and medical assistance for single parents to raise their children. Ethically speaking, I am willing to pay that extra price for a reputable adoption agency and as someone who was infertile and unable to carry children, I do consider my twins adoption a rescue and God's plan A for us. Were we not all rescued from our sin and adopted into God's family? If the laws in the US were not so blatantly working against adoptive parents, more Americans would adopt domestically. I also am disgusted by her comments that adopted parents want what they want. Yes, some parents do provide specifics, others like us left an open window for age, sex, race and illnesses. Yet, we ended up with twins who looked like us. I get sick to my stomach every time I hear someone imply that my husband and planned for that, as if we special ordered our children. Why would any US prospective parent want to pay out of pocket over $20,000 for a woman's health care, delivery and upkeep only for the law to protect her rites and that child can be taken from you at any time because she changed her mind? Unfortunately, the countries of these children don't care about their orphans. I was inside these facilities and they are by our standards deplorable. 3 babies in a crib, no diapers, potty trained at age 6 months, intestinal parasites, untreated medical conditions,meat dumped on the floor of the front entrance for dinner, no adaptive equipment for the physically handicapped and the list goes on and on. Minimal physical needs are met. 70% of 18 year olds who leave Russian orphanages, commit suicide, go into the sex trade or end up on the streets hooked on drugs. Yes there is extortion, no these third world countries DON'T want our help in community development. That is a liberal idealistic view. I disagree with this author's perspective there. In countries where God is absent, human rites violations and abuse abound on orphans and abortion far exceeds the 300,000/year rate in the U.S. orphans are hidden from the public's view. My kids were in an old soviet military base that once housed nuclear missiles, kept 4 hours away from any town or social community. Bottom line, trust in God's provision, do your homework and make the effort to stay in the country and get to know the system, the people and do your research. Ethiopia is corrupt and until they have internally fixed the system, America should boycott this country until these abuses are stopped. Regardless, international adoption was a blessing for our family and especially for my children. I am glad God adopted me into his family and did not rest on the idea that we will eventually restore ourselves and our families on our own initiative.....Adoption reflects the gospel.
TR - May 16th, 2013 at 5:50 PM
How nice that Kathy speaks for all third world countries. How'd you get that job? "That is a liberal idealistic view" ... That's so weird to read since I work in a country that is one of the poorest in the world and the women we work with are incredibly interested in community development, personal development, spiritual development, etc. etc.

Jen never said adoption was bad. She said we should care more about ethics - a lot more. It is almost like some people read an entirely different article.
RM - May 1st, 2014 at 12:05 AM
A common, common, misconception. "God" did not adopt you, but "Jesus", the Son, certainly allowed you to be "Born" into His family! :-)

"Adoption", as discussed here, is not found in the Bible at all. The New Testament adoption that Paul speaks about is a transference of wealth, title, and property when there was no heir. It was usually an adult male, often a loved and trusted slave, not a child, rarely a woman, and was a 100 percent irrevocable assignment. It did not separate families from each other and was sometimes used to bring entire families together, similar to royal weddings in history. You and I and everyone reading this blog would, in fact, welcome being part of a N.T. adoption right now because it would mean added wealth and resources and no change to our current familial statuses!

The church has devastated families for too long with this groupthink misinterpretation of the Bible in regards to modern day adoption.

It destroys families. And while the liberals tear the family apart with the homosexual agenda ("Anybody can build a family, be a family." "God doesn't decide who our families are, we do.") we work right alongside them with adoption ("Anybody buy a child, steal a child." "God doesn't decide what children I have, I do.")

If this is a "reflection of the gospel" it is a skewed one, at best. :-(

But the truth is, the Gospel is all about Salvation and Redemption. I believe modern day adoption (domestic and abroad) can be a form of slavery - children often taken from their homes, their families, their countries, their cultures and with no choice but to perform in our families as "our children" (and be grateful about it) to live in our homes, in our countries and to speak our language and forget everything taken from them, their heritage, their customs, their identities, and often the basic human right (in closed adoptions) to know where they come from.

I believe a day is coming when the groupthink of the church will have entirely shifted and we will look back on this, like slavery and the Holocaust and other atrocities, and say "What were we THINKING?!"

Don't attribute modern day adoption to the gospel :-)
B - May 15th, 2013 at 6:28 PM
I know my wife would rather I not say anything, but come on people. If you take a look at the adoption records at the adoption.state.gov you will a big increase in the number of adoption from 1999 to 2009, you can%u2019t tell me that all the sudden there were just more kids available. BS! People started to see the money that could be obtained by getting people to relinquish their children. Come on people do some homework.

At what point does God, stop being a shield. I know people stand behind the shield of "God" when they do something right or when they do something wrong, "well I did it because it was the "right thing" to do." To paraphrase what Shasta wrote earlier the right thing is not always the correct thing. We as American%u2019s and or Christian%u2019s (history proves that I.E. Crusades) have always seemed to turn a blind eye to things that are wrong when money or a desire is involved. In this case a desire to have a child. We seem to go in with rose colored glasses and not truly looking at what is happening. When my wife and I adopted; we saw things in the country that we both felt as if something was wrong. Come to find out we were right. The country is no longer adopting younger children. Our child was just under two.

So, the biggest problem is now: the children are in the system, by no means of their own, what has to happen. Well first thing is find families, because these children are in the system. Whether that is in the US or internationally these children need food and shelter at minimum. See we as humans have always wanted more, or what we can%u2019t have. Sometimes when we try to do the right thing, we put on those rose colored glasses and only see what we want to see. Meanwhile people are taking advantage of the opportunity, by lying or stealing or worse killing to obtain the %u201Cright thing%u201D for those people wanting the %u201Cright thing%u201D! Secondly is to help the people understand that they can and should be the ones raising their children and only at last resort gives their child up for adoption. As they are doing in some places see Steve%u2019s post.

I am thankful each day for the child I was able to adopt, best kid ever. If for all of you who read through this I will say this- get the book %u201Can awesome book of love%u201D by Dallas Clayton. I am telling you the best book you could read to anyone let alone an adopted child.

Kathy J - May 15th, 2013 at 6:33 PM
A response to this book and blog comments from our wonderful Christian adoption agency.

DeLeith - May 15th, 2013 at 7:37 PM
I wrote a law review article that won't be published until July but can be downloaded from http://ssrn.com/author=1896971. The article highlights the Christian adoption movement and how its members sometimes uncritically participate in a practice that facilitates the corruption described in Jen's article. Jen takes my academic position (complete with over 350 footnotes) and presents it from the Christian perspective, delivering hard truths with much grace.
Winifred Flint - May 15th, 2013 at 8:02 PM
As a former foster kid I always wondered why people had to go to the ends of the earth for kids when there are so many here. The craving for a "baby makes three" fantasy family seems to be enabled by so many Christian organizations. It's embarrassing. Thank you for talking about this subject.
kw - June 14th, 2013 at 8:36 AM
I wonder the same...I'm looking for it but maybe I'm missing it but where is the discussion about the mass amounts of kids in the US waiting for families?
Desiree - May 15th, 2013 at 8:17 PM
Great post. I can relate. Our son adopted from China's special needs program knows his birth mom. Even spent the ride to civil affairs with her!! His file stated orphaned, even when we asked they insisted he was abandoned. Only through therapy and birth parent searching have we found the truth. It's a sad situation and had we known we would have not gone through with the adoption.
I would even have sponsored him to allow him to stay with his birth mom. However, I don't think it would have made a difference as money seemed to mean more to the orphanage director :(
Valerie - May 15th, 2013 at 8:40 PM
Oh my gosh. You make me care about things that I didn't know were "things." Consistently. Thank you.
Jennifer H - May 15th, 2013 at 9:56 PM
I've posted this blog just about everywhere I could think of today! We recently adopted 2 toddlers from the DRC (ages 3 and 5) so this hits so close to home! I have seen so many heated discussions on this topic and I just think something in the middle exists. I feel confident that given the circumstances,, this adoption is what is best for them and I feel no guilt or shame in having them in our family. But I also feel a fight in me to do something to help mothers down the road not have to make the same choice if they desire to keep their family together. (And I wish it was as simple as healthcare and family unification programs... you also have to weigh in Domestic Violence and what women can be forced to do in some of these countries with no law enforcement protecting their rights.)
SG - May 15th, 2013 at 10:17 PM
When your heart is heavy with something God has placed on it...there is no way to be silent and keep it to yourself...Thank you for taking on the 'tough stuff' even at the risk of the heat of those who disagree...your word and opinion is not the final word...you are simply sharing what God has placed on your heart...and in the process made others have to acknowledge something they may not want to admit. You did a great job stating ahead of time this was difficult and was not an all inclusive situation...but one that bears attention just the same...I can't wait to read part two!
Shecki - May 16th, 2013 at 12:50 AM
Good things to ponder. Reminds me of a post I wrote last month, called Not Even Plan B. http://grtlyblesd.blogspot.com/2013/04/not-even-plan-b.html
Amy - May 16th, 2013 at 8:23 AM
We need to cautiously evaluate each situation before stating that international adoption is a corrupt harvesting of babies. Each country has its own issues as well as each adoption agency. Several agencies have recently gone under because of suspicion regarding corruption. We don't ever want non-adoptive families to assume we have our kids because they were bought, etc. We also do not want our children to conclude that they were bought similar to how one runs to the store to get a gallon of milk. Each story is unique and by God's grace these children have become ours. If there are specific instances that you can speak to especially in regard to countries & agencies I believe that's a more productive discussion.
Rachel - May 16th, 2013 at 10:36 AM
Thank you very much for posting this. So few are talking about it and it's so important.

Would you please consider addressing what someone should do if they are concerned that their child's adoption might not have been ethical? What do they do once the child is with them - many times for years - before they realize that they should have asked more questions?
Rachel - May 16th, 2013 at 12:26 PM
I would speak to your adoption agency, first and foremost. They should be willing to help you to figure this out.
Kristen - May 16th, 2013 at 10:41 AM
THIS. Voicing what so many others have already said, thank you for your willingness to speak truth. My husband and I are in the earliest stages of adopting an older Waiting Child from Foster Care. We have no other children, and our choice seems odd, risky and unusual to most people. But my heart can't turn off that calling. As surely as this path, these choices, will lead me to become an advocate for true orphan care, it is my passionate prayer that I will be an even louder advocate for birth moms; for families; for the truth that at the start of every adoption is loss - for the birth parents, for the child, for what their futures could have been. It's painful truth, but it is oh so necessary to grasp. As I told my husband today, may my heart never wish for someone's loss so that I may gain. Thankful for grace, and hopeful that conversations like this will pave the way to not only ethical orphan care, but as you stated, orphan prevention.
Lisa - May 16th, 2013 at 11:27 AM
Thank you for writing this. I work in Ghana with Africana Children's Education Fund and I have seen parents who wanted to relinquish their children. I have had mamas hand me their children and ask me to find someone who can take better care of them. One meal a day just isn't enough for a child. What these parents really needed were resources and options so they could raise these children with dignity. I know too well that some in-country adoption facilitators will step in so quickly to "aid" these parents with relinquishment. The adoption community should be at the forefront of making sure this is never a first-best option. Our mission is to walk beside families and resource them so they can stay together. These mamas love their children and they deserve to have the resources to parent them. Again, thank you for having the courage to bring this before the adoption community.
Courtney - May 16th, 2013 at 11:57 AM
My husband and I have always wanted to adopt. And I'm gonna be painfully honest with you here--there's a part of me that wishes I didn't know this. That we could just go in blind--all butterflies and "saving the world." But what i know cannot be unknown and now our journey to adoption will never be the same. Maybe it won't ever happen--not because we don't care for the orphaned, but because, as you said, our definition of orphan care has been broadened. Thank you for saying what needs so desperately to be said. And thank you for doing it with grace.
DanGman - May 16th, 2013 at 1:34 PM
This quote seems fitting about now...

You will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. - C.S. Lewis, "The Problem of Pain"
Megan - May 16th, 2013 at 1:37 PM
Thank you for saying this. There are so many people who are so unaware that this is happening, and we need to know the facts so we can make informed decisions about what we can do personally as it relates to Orphan Care. I admit - up until about 2 years ago, I had no idea of this problem. A friend of mine visited Haiti on a mission trip a few years ago and was offered a 22 day old baby. The mother was a teenager and poor, and didn't feel capable of caring for the baby. Almost 3 years later - my friend is a full time missionary in Haiti with the sole purpose of empowering and equipping families to care for their children. I cannot wait to go to Haiti next month to spend time with her and encourage the mothers and love on them. I am so honored to be able to do that. I have always felt a call to adopt - but more and more lately I feel called to adopt the moms rather than the kids.
CropDuster - May 16th, 2013 at 1:58 PM
I feel the issue is a little more complex than what the author here is alluding too. We have a son through IA, and we feel the adoption was very ethical after we thoroughly vetted out the agency. We maintain a close relationship with our son's birth family, and have travelled back to the country to visit them. Our son knows and loves his birthmom. In this particular country, orphans aren't the issue. Overpopulation and a high birth rate is. It's common for women to give birth to 8-10 children, by as many different fathers. Often the mom can't identify the father. And the resources of the country can't sustain the population growth. It's not like it's this little nuclear family, and geez, if they only had a little more money, everything would be okay.
The experience of an IA can be very rich, I only hope prospective parents give a lot of thought and prayer going in, and choose their course wisely.

YvonneK - May 16th, 2013 at 5:17 PM
I've pondered on this all day and I am by no means an expert in adoption or Haiti - just an American mom adopting 3 beautiful Haitian boys. 1. thanks to Jen for bringing her insight to adoption, both internationally and domestic. 2. As I read this I thought "wouldn't it be great if . . . " but then my numerous visits to Haiti and research into the history of US aid to countries like Haiti kept creeping in. Jen has valid concerns when we talk about brokering babies and trafficking children, but as is the case in anything in life, there is good and there is bad. Good intentions and bad. People who will do evil and people motivated to do the right thing. And I've come to realize through those many visits that the Haitians are not so different from us. People are people no matter the culture. There are women who are promiscuous here and there. There are fit parents who don't value what they have and don't want the burden of raising children, both here and there. There are poor women who just don't have the resources or family both here and there. There is desperation (by degrees for sure) both there and here. The reality is that no matter what $ we put into a birth mother or a family (as suggested that we do instead of adopting) in Haiti, they still live in Haiti. They still live in a country that has one of the lowest life expectancies of any 3rd world country with mens' expectancies in their 50s. They live in a country lead by a government that doesn't put the concerns and needs of their people first. They live where cholera is rampant and medical care is not common place. Half a million children now are orphans and need medical care, food, education and a home. Their government has received so much in the way of charitable donations and the Haitian people don't receive any of that. So we look at Haiti with American eyes and think we know how to fix it, but we can only go so far because Haiti is and has been an impoverished country. Haiti has and is under the rule of a greedy government. I suppose I could choose to use my adoption fee to keep my children with their birth mother, but then what? Do I move there? What about when she becomes ill and dies at 30? or 40? and now my child is an orphan again? What about when that child grows so sick and that mother can't get medical help for him? What about when the money runs out? I agree we have to make sure brokering and trafficking doesn't happen but we can't lose sight is that there are many children who need help now or many won't have a chance of a future or life without adoption. For everyone one who does it the wrong way, there are hundreds doing it the right way. My one son has a mother who has had 9 children with 4 different men. She didn't want to keep her 9th child. She wants nothing to do with him. He has no one. He was the result of a one night stand. My other 2 boys have a mother "capable" but feels like she doesn't have time to care for them. She placed them in an orphanage 5 years ago and spends all her time in church. In an orphanage they share everything with 30 children. They go without food sometimes. They go without water many times. And ours is a good, loving, caring orphanage. I don't suggest we stop with all these great ministries and aid, but I do suggest we promote adoption to anyone called to adopt and we support those willing to make that journey. That we don't put obstacles in the way. God has adopted us and we are called to adoption. Some may help with money, some with their time, others opening their home, but the need is great, the need is now and all ways should be supported, nurtured, encouraged and prayed for. One initiative shouldn't negate the other. All has to be done to help. Thanks.
Peggy Doyle - May 11th, 2014 at 12:24 PM
Yvonne, we do look at things through American eyes. A perfect example of this is when you write the things wrong with their country as if that is reason enough to take kids from birth parents. Yes, women are promiscuous. Does that mean they have no right to their children? I'm glad that you are so convinced that your child is the result of a one night stand. Are you so sure that it was a one night stand and not rape? Not some kind of public shaming? It sounds as if you are looking for answers that fit your needs. Madonna went into a country and adopted two kids with families that did not understand much about the relinquishment and both families put up a fight for those kids. Is it ok to rip those kids away from families because they now have a life filled with material wealth and better opportunities? I sure hope not because then I'd have to worry that Madonna may take a liking to one of my kids. It is sad that there is such a fight to address very real issues when it comes to inter country adoption. Ask David Smolin about his reputable agency. I won't use the God argument because then I would have to question what God would create situations in which people benefitted from the pain of anyone.
Aaron Hartman - May 16th, 2013 at 7:02 PM
Why do we adopt? Why do we care for the orphan?

The primary driving force behind our caring for the orphan lies in God: His identity and what He has done for us. We adopt because we have been adopted by God and we rescue the orphan because we have been rescued. In orphan care we image the work of God the Father that was predestined in the Holy Trinity before the beginning of creation. Orphan care is not done primarily for the orphan, it is done primarily in response to God, who He is, and what has been done for us.

We must remember that God has chosen to make His heavenly family through adoption. Our sonship and inclusion into His family is through adoption. Initiated by the will of the Father, effected through the redemption by the Son and sealed to the end through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is only one 'only begotten son.' The rest are through adoption.

The problem with the converstion about 'horizontal' or sociological adoption and orphan care is that its focus is sin and its effects in the world. Yes the world is fall, yes parents abandon their children, yes child trafficing occurs. These are all due to the effects of sin in a fallen world. They serve to remind us that our hope is not here, and our adopted childrens' hope is not here but in the world to come when God returns to claim His own. We must remember that in James 1:27 true religion is defined for us, and it includes care for the least of these (in that time it was widows and orphans).

There is a huge anti-adoption movement world wide whose emphasis is on keeping children in their families of origin. Of course that is ideal, but we live in a broken work where ophans and abandoned children exist. Hoping for sins effects to be eradicated without the work of the Gospel through the Chruch is an exercise in futility. There are those called to preach, let them preach. There are those called to build schools and develop commmunities, let them do so as well. There are also those who are called to adopt; let them adopt.

After my first daugher was born with cerebral palsy, her birth mother abandoned her in the hospital. My second daughter was born to a HIV mom and my daughter was born addicted to heroin. God chose them for my wife and I before any of us were born. My 1st daughter's birth mom has even said that (we are still in contact with her). This is a powerful expression of the gospel that is grace filled and undenyable.

If God called Israel to care for the orphan and James 1:27 defines true religion as such, why do we think we are not help to the same expectation by God. We are the community of the redeemed that are to be the conduits through which God provides for the least of these in the world. As John Piper as said, "adoption is greater than the universe.' He has good reason to say so.
Aaron - May 16th, 2013 at 8:46 PM
For more info about the theological aspect of the doctrine of adoption check out:
ADOPTED God's Plan A
on Amazon.com
Yvonne - May 16th, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Aaron-well said. Praise be to God He calls and we follow.
TR - May 17th, 2013 at 8:03 PM
This was not an anti adoption post. You read it entirely wrong. It was an anti UNETHICAL adoption post. What the heck?
Courtney - May 20th, 2013 at 9:10 PM
Bob - May 16th, 2013 at 7:33 PM
When is the next post??
Melodie Kejr - May 16th, 2013 at 9:23 PM
Hi Jen, thanks for an excellent post about a difficult topic. I worked with adoptions in Liberia for 3 years from the level of orphanage supervisor to interim country director. I also happen to have been raised as a missionary kid in West Africa, which increased my cultural awareness during my work with adoptions. I have been following the information coming out with Kathryn Joyce's book and from Tara Livesay's blog. Everything has come to a head at the same time and I feel an urgency to also share my experiences.

I would really appreciate it if you would get in touch with me as I have some important information on the topic and could use your input. My email address is ivorycmelodie(a)hotmail(.)com.

One of the greatest tragedies is when people are sincerely trying to do good, but are inadvertently doing something terrible. I want to help spread the word.

Thank you!
Karon - May 17th, 2013 at 6:42 AM
Jen, I do think this is an important topic, absolutely. I just wondered if you would consider something. Would you consider asking an adoptive parent whose only path to parenthood was adoption to join you in leading this discussion? I'm finding that my history compared to yours is making it difficult for me to embrace all the points you are making. I'm not saying this to sound disrespectful at all (and I hate that you can't read tone on the internet ;)), but you had three biological children prior to adopting. You haven't been where I have been. I would love to hear from someone who has traveled the same road, who can advise those of us who are solely adoptive parents (and I'm guessing there are many of us in your target audience) on how to navigate the emotional minefields of failed attempts to have a biological child, the strong desire for a child, and the excitement about pursuing adoption with the need to make an ethical adoption process the top priority. Because of course that is the case, and we want to do the best that we can. The internet sometimes feel like a pile-on for shaming adoptive parents for their decisions, and I know that's not where you are coming from. Maybe this will all become more clear in Part 2. Thanks for being cool. :)
Jen Hatmaker - May 17th, 2013 at 7:50 AM
Great point, Karon. I think we step through different emotional landmines to land us each at adoption. And there is not one thing wrong with growing a family through adoption!! Not one thing. I was speaking a bit to my crowd, but come back, because adoption ethics affect all adopters, regardless of our motives. I'll discuss how to choose an agency, what to look for, red flags, all that in Part Two, and that will still apply. Love to you, sister.
Karon - May 17th, 2013 at 3:50 PM
Thank you, Jen. :)
Katie Did - July 4th, 2013 at 11:43 PM
Thank you for clarifying this. There is so much anger (on-line, at least) at adoptive parents, that sometimes when we see criticism, it reads as another rage post. I was under the impression until I read this comment that you were against all international adoptions. We're interested in international adoptions, but haven't taken the first steps. I'm finding it hard to even educate myself because of all of the hatred on-line (not from your site, just in general.) I appreciate you clarifying your position and I look forward to your part II.
Elizabeth - May 17th, 2013 at 10:20 AM
We were one of the last couples to adopt from Russia before it closed down last fall. We purposefully asked for an older child who would be in less demand and have less of a chance. Though we believe our child was a true orphan, we can say without a doubt that international adoption (as we experienced it) is a corrupt, money-driven system. Again and again through this process we were aghast at how huge a part money plays in this. More than once we felt uneasy at what we were asked to do, or sign, or say in order to complete our adoption. It is by no means a clean-cut operation: even upon completion it leaves many strings untied and questions unanswered.
christi - May 17th, 2013 at 11:24 AM
I am not one to respond or get into a debate but this one has hit home to me. I have tried to decide how and what to say. First, I am the adoptive mom a boy, age 7, who has been home from Haiti for a short time now. He will always know that we are his Plan A. We all have struggles to overcome in our life, some more so than others. I have mine, my two biological boys have there%u2019s, my husband has his and my adoptive son obviously his. But, I believe whole heartedly that we are all where God intends us on being at this point in time. It is all part of his bigger plan. Second, he was not my only adoption. We began a second adoption shortly after we started our first. After nine long months it came to an end. It was the most heart breaking, hardest thing ever. It was my only little girl%u2026and to this day%u2026still is my only little girl. We worked with a crche whose primary belief was first families. I completely respect and I am happy I worked with a crche who had this philosophy. There were no questions on intentions. But, in the midst of our adoption, the birth mom found work. She was very capable of being a parent. This crche goal was to empower women%u2026to empower mothers. I am sure you see where this is going%u2026once the crche learned of her work; they began to want to empower her%u2026to be a mother%u2026to be a caregiver. As much as it tore me and my family up, we had to respect their decision%u2026I mean%u2026weren%u2019t they the ones who are in this business? They made the decision to place the child back into the care of the mom%u2026and we sat back and watched. From afar I kept up with my little girl through my Haitian friends. Once the crche released her to the mom, she immediately took her to the grandmother, who lived 2 hours away from the mother. The grandmother tried to care for the little girl and struggled greatly to feed and provide for her%u2026and with her age and her bad health, it just did not work. Months and months went by. The mother never became the caregiver or the mother the crche %u201Cempowered%u201D her to be. The little girl is back in an orphanage%u2026.and with the laws in Haiti right now%u2026who knows what her life holds for her. My point%u2026sometimes those who think they know best%u2026who think mothers are able and capable%u2026maybe they just don%u2019t know%u2026.it is just their opinion. The mom%u2019s in the third world countries have a rough, rough, rough life. I have never walked in their shoes%u2026and there may be a good percentage who flat out just do not want to be a mother in the world they live in. And that breaks my heart and tears me up%u2026because that is the greatest gift on this earth%u2026but to some it is the biggest burden. But those who want to be a mother%u2026by all means, help them, empower them, support them. But don%u2019t guilt the ones who don%u2019t and try to make a mom out of someone who just doesn%u2019t choose to be one. My little girl could have a mom right now%u2026could be in a loving home. But like I said earlier%u2026we are all where God intends on us being at this exact moment in time and her story isn%u2019t over. I just sit back with so many %u201Cwhat if%u2019s%u201D all because someone thought they were empowering a mom who really didn%u2019t want to be a mom in the first place%u2026it was they thought she should be. I do work in Haiti. I have seen organizations who support first families and who have done this exact same thing%u2026placed children back into the arms of capable mothers. Yes, it works and yes I have seen children who have died. Because even though someone sees them as being capable, they choose not to be. They have asked and begged for help from orphanages and children%u2019s homes and been turned away because they seem capable of taking care of their children. And it turns out, they couldn%u2019t, and now their child has since died. It is a sad, sad, sad situation. Haiti is not a baby factory%u2026you do not see many baby adoptions happening. The babies you see are very, very sickly. There is way more to it than just adoption vs. supporting first families%u2026I wish there were more answers. The only thing I can say is follow your heart%u2026follow it where it is being led. Trust your gut and your hunches. If you are being led to adopt, by all means, adopt. There are many, many, many children who need loving families and loving homes. And please, do not listen to other people%u2019s opinions and beliefs%u2026ultimately it is between you and God.
YvonneK - May 20th, 2013 at 9:49 AM
Christi - Thanks for being called to write this. I wish we as Americans can stop thinking we can control the dynamics of another culture and country. We can minister, assist, give money and I pray we continue to do that, but we must appreciate their culture and the reality of their world. I wrote a comment as well after much thought and prayer. We must continue to aid while helping today in any way possible. I pray more people are called to adopt the many children in Haiti who need forever homes. My sons aren't home yet, but I'm hoping this summer they will be.
Janna - May 17th, 2013 at 9:04 PM
Jen, you are dead on. Before adopting our little guy from ET, we asked hard questions about his surviving family, desiring to support his family instead of adopt. We felt then and do still today that the very best we can do is not let it get to relinquishment. Families should be able to stay together, even if it means sleeping on a dirt floor with no blanket. We do no one any favors in stating we're saving someone from that. You are right - if even one child is ripped away from his families embrace, we must do something.
Lisa Andrewjeski - May 18th, 2013 at 12:58 PM
I didn't read all the comments, cause there are over 350, just scanned. However, I am siting here welling up, so conflicted. We've been officially waiting for a child for six months from Ethiopia. We are looking at another 18 months at least. I feel confident in our agency, and we know the woman who takes care of things in Addis personally, my husband has traveled there twice. We feel like we've covered our bases. We pray daily for our child's birth family. And, I cry almost as much when I consider the loss, the heartbreak, all of it. We have two biological daughters, and the thought of all the yuck that is going on regarding adoption is just overwhelming. More than once we've wondered if we were doing the right thing. We support a family preservation program in Ethiopia; we know that is best. But, our story is years-long and kind of crazy...like I couldn't make it up if I tried, leading us to international adoption from Ethiopia. So, I keep going back to that. Knowing that if I am loving Jesus, if I am seeking HIM, HE will do his good work. I just get so bogged down by the terrible. Anyway, I appreciate your post, but again, it made me wonder if we were doing the right thing. I just want my life to be an offering, something beautiful for my Savior.
David - May 19th, 2013 at 3:20 AM
You're doing the right thing. We cannot let the threat of corruption, which will always exist, ultimately keep us from doing everything we can to care for orphans. You've no reason to doubt your calling.
Lisa Andrewjeski - May 19th, 2013 at 9:29 AM
Thanks for that! Yes. Agreed.
David - May 19th, 2013 at 4:06 AM
While I agree with the concerns that you've highlighted here, I question your method of delivering those concerns. I also question the very general presentation of statistics based on what appears to be a rather small sample size of hearsay.

Yes, we should absolutely do everything we can to equip birth mothers/families to care for their children. And we should also fight tirelessly against all forms of corruption especially where children are concerned... however we must be careful that our anger over the injustice and evil of corruption doesn't cause us to inadvertently discourage others from doing what's necessary for orphans. Currently adoption is an orphan's BEST chance, and the clock is ticking for every one of those kids.

I hate to be a downer, but the fact is that wherever money flows... some element of corruption will exist. Yes, we fight it, but in a large scale system such as this with opportunities for the corrupt so plentiful, though it breaks my heart, occasionally something will go wrong. There are many, MANY opponents of adoption that would say that these incidents (though RARE, compared to the number successful adoptions) are reason to stop adoption altogether. An article such as this one, if not presented very carefully, is simply fuel to that fire. Nations close their doors to international adoption based upon overreaction to these individual incidents... because somehow government officials think a better solution would be that NO orphan is adopted.

It's not a perfect system. It never will be. Let's continue to try to make it better, but please... let's be careful not to discourage adoption.

And no... let's NOT hire private investigators to search for birth parents (or have none of you figured out that THIS ALSO is a huge draw for the corrupt)... at least not until our kids have a desire to find their birth parents. Instead, let's prioritize the kids by allowing them to bond with their adoptive parents and grow confident in the knowledge that those parents will NEVER abandon them.

Yes... let's fund organizations that help equip families to raise their children... but let's ALSO recognize that as that funding goes up, so will opportunities for the corrupt to take advantage (or has no one else realized that yet).

So please, while we're doing our best to rid the world of corruption little by little... let's make sure we're doing something tangible NOW.
Jennifer - May 19th, 2013 at 7:58 PM
David - I have had the exact same thought about the potential for corruption in family preservation. Just like with adoption, it doesn't mean we should not pursue it because of some cases of corruption. Both must remain options for vulnerable children. I can speak only of Ethiopia because that is where my children are from, but I really believe that things are getting better there. Awareness has been raised and slowly, but surely, the unethical agencies are being exposed.

I, too, have concerns about the generalizations that have been made. I am guessing that the stories that are being passed around about birth parents not understanding what adoption truly means happened before the current system was in place. It is simply not possible at this point for a birth parent in Ethiopia to misunderstand what is happening because not only does the judge make it very clear at court that the adoption is permanent and irrevocable, but the embassy also makes this point.
Matt - May 19th, 2013 at 10:52 AM
David's points are very good, but It think Jen's posting is valid and thought provoking, nonetheless. Because adoption and language used ("but think of the children!") is so emotional, it's hard to look at this objectively, especially if you have adopted yourself. Because this business (yes it is) has so many intermediaries (facilitators) and procedural steps (fees) it is going to be murky.

Before we adopted, I tried to discuss this issue with my wife and raise her awareness. She was so emotionally invested (baby crazy) that she didn't want to discuss it. Now after we have adopted, it's a different story (she gets it). Would we have done it differently if we had the awareness that we now have - no, we still would have done it. I love my family and I think my adopted girl would have had a very bleak future in her birth country. I just can't bring myself to look at it in a geopolitical way.

The lack of any substantial social history on our daughter before her arrival in the orphanage has always made me nervous. She is so perfect to us, we find it hard to believe anyone would not want to raise her, but then we are rich (but born poor), so it is easy for us to feel that way.

So much productive human energy is wasted in denying human nature (people want sex, make babies, want what they don't have..) The line between corruption and enlightened self interest can be fine. Poverty and despair can tip the balance. Maybe I can make a little difference in the world by raising educated, kind little people and supporting social policies that support these goals????
Jen Hatmaker - May 20th, 2013 at 8:30 AM
Good and difficult words, Matt: "So much productive human energy is wasted in denying human nature (people want sex, make babies, want what they don't have..) The line between corruption and enlightened self interest can be fine. Poverty and despair can tip the balance."
Amy Smith - May 19th, 2013 at 5:25 PM
Whee! I am reading "7" right now, and popped over to your blog for the first time and read THIS! We adopted our daughter from Ethiopia over 6 years ago. In the last couple of years, I have been thinking about this very same idea. What if we focused our prayer. action, finances on helping children stay in their birth countries with their bio families. I was talking with hubby last night about "7" and the issue of inequality of opportunity globally. I said this exact thing to him. So, here is this same idea echoing back to me from your blog.
Incidentally, I just recently ordered my very first pair of really nice cowboy boots. They are being shipped to me as we speak. I got them at a huge discount. I wonder if God is going to let me wear them?
annturner - May 19th, 2013 at 8:00 PM
The thing is -- while everything you are saying is true about able bodied parents being able to keep and raise children in theory-- it is not relevant in practice-- honestly I wish it were. What needs to change at least in Congo is first of all CORRUPTION AND TOTAL LACK OF A FUNCTIONING GOVERNMENT -- and secondly is the lack of access to birth control for women, which means the majority (I know from experience) will give up a child to a family from abroad for nothing -- with the hope they will be educated and come rescue the rest of the family at best, and at worst -- it will only be one of the 6-8 children the average Congolese woman will have, often not out of choice but out of lack to birth control. So let's start with supporting Democracy and Women's education and health and that is a long winding road.
Jen Hatmaker - May 20th, 2013 at 8:28 AM
Totally, absolutely agree. Let's lay the ax at the root of the tree. Community development is critical. Will totally be addressing that.
Christina - May 19th, 2013 at 9:21 PM
Our foster care system is a testament to deeper injustices too. At a local event this past weekend to raise awareness for kids waiting in foster care it was too easy to spot the foster/adoptive families. Just look for the white parents with brown kids. Why is that? Something was just icky about it. It felt like white saviors rescuing the other races. I know it's not really like that, it's just the reality of the statistics. I know it personally, it's a reality in our own multi-colored foster/adoptive family. I just wish it didn't have to be. What's the deeper problem we are missing here regarding poverty, equal opportunity, education??
Dawn - May 20th, 2013 at 5:00 PM
This is what is hard. I am a foster/adoptive mom. My skin happens to be lighter. Some of my kids have skin that happens to be darker. There are issues that come with that and we intentionally and compassionately try to deal with all of them. But why do we have to be labeled "white saviors rescuing other races"? Can't I just be a mom who had room in her heart for these kids? I mean should I have just told the county that I would only have accepted kids that had the exact same skin color as me? Would that have made me a more "justice oriented" person? I mean, I get it. But I just don't get it.
Christina - May 20th, 2013 at 6:04 PM
Dawn- I feel the same way. My husband and I "match" our bio boys but not our three adopted out of foster care. And we feel the same as you, going in with no specifics on race (or gender). And the reality is that statistically speaking more kids in foster care are minorities. I was only trying to speak to that injustice- and start a conversation on why it is that way. What have we missed in our country as far as community building, education, birth family support (all the things mentioned in helping countries abroad) that has lead to the such unequal statistics here. I'm sure it has to do with America's history and the segregation and racism that was rampant not that long ago. Just sad that's all. It's overwhelming the injustices of our world. I just want to plead "Come back already Lord. It's too much. We are tearing each other apart down here."
Dax - May 20th, 2013 at 8:57 AM
Movements of good works always produce a refining of what is good.
Whenever a movement begins to swell, we as Christians should always look over our shoulder and keep asking this question, "What is the most loving and God-glorifying thing we could be doing?" Inevitably, there will be some things that surface that will cause us to say, we need to be asking more questions and this is good. Mercy ministry is always, always messy. It is rarely ever black and white and will always require wisdom. I think of the revivals and awakenings that have take over in the 18th and 19th centuries. I think of the movement across the church these days to combine both words and deeds in the proclamation of the gospel. I think of Billy Graham's crusades. There were lots of good things happening as a result of these things; people being saved, people being served, people seeing Jesus. But the church has also learned from these things. For instance, many folks have seen that it's not enough to pull off a crusade of evangelism without the follow up with the local church. It's not enough just to give people a meal and a place to lay their head in a rescue mission. But it doesn't mean that the efforts were evil or wrong. This is the goodness of constantly reforming our work to keep it aiming at the glory of God and the making of disciples. This is similar with adoption...sure corruption has followed and we need to keep asking harder questions about what does love really look like (for these children and the birth mothers) but we should praise God that the courage of so many families to adopt is what is producing the need to think deeper about real transformation in countries and lives. The reason we are asking those questions is because of the good movement of adoption. We must be careful to value what is good in a movement and thank God for using them to refine our efforts for his glory and the good of others. The temptation is for people to become self-righteous in wanting to be right when they look at these further questions and not value the good that has been wrought.

Mercy requires wisdom that is anchored in glorifying God and loving others.
If you are going to do ministry of any kind it will require wisdom. Anytime you take a risk for ministry it will push you to make a decision that is always shrouded in gray. You will always be second guessing because sacrificial ministry is...costly. Did Adoniram Judson's ministry to Burma that ended up with enormous fruit but also cost him the lives of two wives and at least three chidlren end up a waste? That could be debated. He even wondered, "The psychological effects of theses losses were devastating.
Self-doubt overtook his mind, and he wondered if he had become a missionary for ambition and fame, not humility and
self-denying love." There is a cost to ministry and at the end of the day we are called to individually exercise wisdom and think personally about the call God has given us. There will be doubts but the way we exercise wisdom is to personally examine our motives. Have we made this effort because we want to build a righteousness for ourselves. Have we made this effort because we want to be known by others as being "truly sacrificial Christians?" Or, have we fought tooth and nail to make our efforts not about us but about God, his glory and the good of others knowing him. If we have fought to make our motives about him, then we must take real confidence that his sovereignty and providence has led us down a particular path and orient our efforts for that purpose. If we are personally aiming at him and his glory and for the benefit of others (not our reputation) then we can have great measures of confidence in moving forward by faith in God's providence and his redeeming purposes in suffering.
Angela - May 20th, 2013 at 10:51 AM
Thanks for a great article...articulates a lot of what has been stirring in my heart in the two years since I left a Ukrainian orphanage without the 8 year old boy I was legally entitled to adopt after his birth parents unexpectedly showed up and begged me not to adopt him.

Because of these thoughts, there are two organizations I LOVE to support. One is Compassion International. While it seems like so little, a donation of $39 a month supports an impoverished child in his or her own country, culture, and family. I feel confident that many of these sponsored little ones would be social orphans without this commitment.

The other organization that I love is New Horizons for Children. This is an "orphan hosting" program. While not perfect, older orphans from Eastern Europe and China are given an opportunity to spend holidays in America with a Christian family. Sometimes these orphans are adopted and sometimes they are not. But families have a chance to connect and love on a child who may have never been "chosen" before in their lives. I hosted a girl from Latvia two years ago and fell in love with her. For various reasons, I did not feel that she was meant to be our full-time girl, but I did follow the promptings of the Spirit and advocated for her to another family who is in the process of adopting her. Because she is older, we could hear her story from her own mouth and know without a doubt that she is a true orphan and not a child who is being trafficked. God Bless us all as we follow God's command to care for orphans and widows.
Suzanne - May 20th, 2013 at 5:31 PM
I think that you touched lightly on a great point about the culture that we have here in the United States among Christians. There has become a culture of idealism and "good intentions" (as you said), but a lack of reality about our own families and the needs of these children. I say this, after having experienced a failed domestic foster to adopt situation. Open dialogue is a great place to start about the reality that we need to address here and afar.
Leslie - May 20th, 2013 at 7:13 PM
This post infuriates me in one way and it leaves me nodding my head in agreement in another way. I know, you're thinking well I guess she has two heads. No, I don't. I just really struggle with all of this.

We have adopted four children, all from China, all born with very serious heart conditions. One almost died at 10 years old, and his precious foster Momma fought and got him the surgery he desperately needed. Thankfully, I was able to find her before we adopted him, we met her that trip and again when we went back to adopt again, and we keep in touch with her. This is SO RARE in China adoption.

Then our other three would NOT have survived without surgery. Two of them were given surgery in China, one was not. She was in dire need when we arrived, in the hospital dying of heart failure. But.

Why did their birth parents have to make the choice to abandon them or watch them die of heart disease in the first place?

Yes, I put extra space on purpose. Because that is the big question for me. You are hitting the nail on my proverbial nail head when you say what if we donated the $25K instead to family preservation. Exactly. And that is why I speak out every chance I get for Love Without Boundaries' Unity Fund, which provides funding for life-saving surgeries (often heart) to family whose children will die w/out the surgery but who also do not have the money and have no earthly way to get it.

I often wonder especially for two of our children (who were not abandoned as infants) if their birthparents think of them everyday and wonder if they are alive. THAT IS NOT FAIR! I want to desperately let them know, YES, SHE IS ALIVE. YES, HE IS ALIVE! To thank them for making such a sacrifice. NO ONE in America can even comprehend facing one of two choices: 1). watching their child die of heart disease b/c they can't afford the needed surgery or 2). abandoning their child in the hopes the govt. will pay for the surgery since the child is now an orphan.

It just sucks. I'm sorry but that is all I can say. It is so wrong and so unfair.

I don't know the answers, but I know that I tell everyone I can who asks, "how can I help?" to go and give to the Unity Fund.

Thank you for sharing. I came over from our agency website. We used AWAA too. I found them to be ethical, but I do have some unresolved questions from our first adoption. I don't ever expect to get them answered though. Just too deep.
Jen Hatmaker - May 20th, 2013 at 10:43 PM
It is so unfair, Leslie. Poverty would never make orphans out of our children. It just shouldn't be. A devastating injustice.
Hannah - May 21st, 2013 at 8:14 AM
"NO ONE in America can even comprehend facing one of two choices: 1). watching their child die of heart disease b/c they can't afford the needed surgery or 2). abandoning their child in the hopes the govt. will pay for the surgery since the child is now an orphan."

Our daughter is also from China and in the exact same situation. Wasn't abandoned until surgery was necessary to survive. It didn't make sense to me until I understood medical care in China better. It is heart breaking.
amanda - May 20th, 2013 at 9:43 PM
That is an awesome article!
Courtney - May 21st, 2013 at 6:48 AM
Invaluable resource from scripture here
Amy - May 21st, 2013 at 5:31 PM
It sounds like you are against adoption but are for rebuilding birth families. What do you suggest for women like me who would love to be a mother but God hasn't given that gift?
Jen Hatmaker - May 21st, 2013 at 6:30 PM
Go check Part Two out...definitely not against adoption! Definitely for preserving birth families whenever possible, but for adoption when it isn't. Adoption can be a beautiful way to build a family!
Paula Reeves - May 21st, 2013 at 6:01 PM
Thank you so much for being brave enough to speak the truth. I have also written about my family being plan B and that I'm okay with that. 9 of our 11 children are adopted - all considered special needs at the time of placement, for various reasons. It's beyond fathomable that any parent should have to choose between watching their child die from poverty or letting the go into an unknown, never to hear from them again. We must as Christians fight injustice where we see it.
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