Examining Adoption Ethics: Part Two
by Jen Hatmaker on May 20th, 2013

Welcome. With much love, care, research, and prayer, I move onto Part 2 in a three-part series on adoption ethics. If you haven’t read Part 1, go do that. In this installment, we’re discussing ethical orphan care WITHIN adoption, and Part 3 will involve orphan care OUTSIDE of adoption.
First of all, let’s make some room. The response to Part 1 was so inspiring from the Christian community. Your commitment to due diligence, to the search for truth, to the orphan, to first families and second families was a marvel. I was proud of us. In a movement with such deep investment and high emotions, it is no small thing to embrace scrutiny and evaluation.
Room: Should we shut down adoption and invest our energies elsewhere? Emphatically, NO. I am not anti-adoption; I am anti-unethical-adoption. So many children are true orphans, have no chance at reunification, or would be in danger with their first family, and adoption is their last chance. Similarly, many first parents relinquish their kids as an act of courage and selflessness, having soberly weighed their options, landing on adoption in their child’s best interest. We applaud these moms; they are to be commended. There will always be children who genuinely need a family, and adoption is a beautiful story of redemption in those cases.
These two. FOR.

Here are the real numbers: Around the world, there are an estimated 153 million orphans who have only lost one parent (“single-orphaned”). Obviously, not all these children need adopted. Most single parents raise children valiantly in their own community and extended family. There are about 18 million orphans who have lost both parents (“double orphaned”) and are living in orphanages or on the streets. So again, I am pro-family: first families when possible, and second families when they are not.

Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff: As my friend Ryan at AWAA so perfectly put it: “If there are bad actors coercing people, paying bribes, etc., then we should not call this ‘adoption’ but ‘trafficking’. When thieves run into a bank, point a gun and steal money, we don’t call that a bank withdrawal; it’s a robbery. Our response shouldn’t be to close banks or criticize all bankers but to step up bank security. In the same way, criminal activity should be described as such and not as adoption.” (<---- Exactly. This goes to my point in Part 1 that trafficking is not a God-endorsed franchise and shouldn't receive the same assessment as adoption. Let us step up bank security, because we should clamp down on less-frequent robberies instead of imagining that banks never attract thieves.)
Room: Should we stop adopting babies? No! Again, there are certainly babies who are either abandoned or willfully relinquished, and the less time they languish in an institution, THE BETTER. You are no villain, Baby Adopter, and many adoptive parents choose a baby to keep birth order intact or remove her from an institution early to diminish long-term effects.
It is simply this: the line for adoptable healthy babies is very long, and every last one of them will be chosen, even those not born yet. In the meantime, tens of thousands of older kids are waiting right this second. Unicef reports approximately 95% of orphans over the age of 5. So if our motivation includes mitigating the orphan crisis, then we need more parents willing to adopt older kids, sick kids, and sibling groups, including here and abroad.
Room: Adoption is as complicated as the number of people, countries, stories, and processes involved. There is no one story. What is true for China is different in Guatemala. What is happening in Ethiopia has no relevance for domestic foster care. The best we can do in a public forum like this is take a high view of adoption and insist on ethical practices, transparency, and a commitment to help and not hurt. While your personal adoption may be completely legitimate, as a community, we still must guard against systemic weak links and refuse to discredit obvious failure within the movement.
Room: Are all agencies corrupted? FOR THE LOVE. They most certainly are not. Plenty of agencies have impeccable reputations and unimpeachable staffs. They don’t deserve to all be painted with the same brush. While there are deplorable brokers supplying the pipeline illegally, unethically or even naively, it would be terribly unfair and unwise to lump them all together.
For you in serious research mode, may I point you to a series at My Fascinating Life describing best practices between the people who make decisions about the adoptability of a child, those who benefit from adoption, and those who oversee the entire process. It is a lengthy two-part series but well worth the energy, a fantastic exegesis on structural ethics. (Note: in this series, “adoption beneficiaries” includes agencies, but to be clear: I am not implying sinister motives, as no social workers or agency employees I know are rolling up in their Bentleys. We all love these kids and families. It is simply a designation for which side of the wall we are on.)
[Much thanks to the agency workers, nonprofit leaders, missionaries, and adoptive parents who have contributed to the following info. Especially grateful to Ryan Hanlon through my agency, America World, for his expertise. We burned up the internet in discussion last week, as my first email from him after Part 1 was something like “WTHHHHHHHHH???” and ended 73 emails later with some of the best material that follows. Let me tell you: when people get together who love children, love birth families and adoptive families, love community development, and love adoption, we are a powerful tribe for good.]
For those considering adoption, let’s discuss due diligence. Internationally, perhaps the primary consideration is which country. Why? Certain countries lend themselves to a more transparent process with less room for corruption. Others facilitate adoptions with virtually NO oversight by a child welfare authority, and the U.S. government has a limited role, so there is almost no process for verifying practices as ethical, which isn’t to say that they are corrupt, it’s to say that nobody has a clue if they’re corrupt.
PAPs (prospective adoptive parents) must research the adoption process in a country, specifically how a child is determined to be available for international adoption. Call multiple agencies, read the DOS website, talk to adoptive families that have gone through the process. In general, Hague Convention Countries have more safeguards in place than non-Convention countries (exceptions apply). In general, the more the foreign country’s government controls the process (especially the matching process) instead of an agency, attorney or orphanage, there is less room for corruption. Although frustrating, the slower and more thorough a country is, the better. If they place a premium on reunification and in-country placements and insist on exhaustive investigations to approve an international placement, we say AMEN and commit to wait.  
Second, with such enormous trust placed in agencies as mediators, this is no place for naivety. Once you’ve chosen a country, next find an agency with best practices in that country, because an agency has different levels of experience, staffing, knowledge and resources in every country they work, even if they run multiple programs.
Although this varies from country to country, some general questions to ask of agencies:
  • Are you licensed and accredited both here and in the other country? (You might think this was obvious, but you would be wrong.)
  • Has your license ever been suspended in country X? Any other country?
  • Can you recommend other agencies that work in the same country? (This speaks volumes, including their reputation with other sound agencies.)
  • Can you provide references of families who have adopted from your agency from the same country? (Not foolproof, because anyone can assemble a band of cheerleaders, but it’s a start. This list should be lengthy.)
  • How long have you been working in country X? (Pilot programs give me serious pause; it is simply not proven, and this is no place for naive optimism.)
  • How many adoptions do you facilitate each year? (Beware of astronomical numbers.)
  • How many of the kids you place from county X are infants? How many have special needs? How many are older? 
  • Can we see a copy of a recent audited financial statement? Annual report? 
  • How does the referral process work?
  • Do any of your staff get paid on a per adoption basis? If no, then how are they paid?
  • What are the common reasons children are available for adoption in country X? 
  • Will the children likely have living birth parents? If so, are we allowed to interact with them? What will we learn from them?
  • Can we use an independent or second translator when talking to birth parents? (This diminishes the possibility of selective mistranslation by an orphanage employee and allows you to ask difficult and pressing questions about what they actually understand about international adoption. What have they been promised? Are they under the impression that this is temporary? Were they approached about adoption or did they relinquish voluntarily? Etc…)
  • Who in country X determines that the children are appropriate for adoption?
  • Does your agency interact with the birth parents? 
  • Do you have initiatives in place for reunification or first family development, not associated with adoption revenue?
  • For domestic adoption:  What does the birth parent get from your agency? Who is providing counseling? What options are presented by your agency?  
Red flags for PAPs:
  • When you ask questions, do you feel shut down, disrespected, bullied, or discouraged? I asked my agency hard questions and got pages and pages of immediate, thorough responses. If you are discouraged from talking to other families, researching, asking difficult questions, or investigating, RUN.
  • Are other adoptive families with concerns are painted as lunatics or troublemakers?
  • Does correspondence lean too heavily on emotional propaganda and "rescue" rhetoric, as opposed to professionalism and an obvious commitment to best practices?
  • An agency that offers something different than other agencies.
  • An agency that only does infant adoptions or promises lots of babies.
  • An agency that offers the same thing for much less money. 
  • An agency that offers the same thing as other agencies in much less time. 
  • An agency that claims to have special connections or processes in country.
  • If you hear the word “expedited,” run for the hills. That is not a thing. That is corruption.
  • Payments without receipts (common in Eastern European adoptions).
  • “In general, if it smells fishy, don’t eat it…” Ryan Hanlon, folks. We cannot allow Baby or Child Fever to overtake our instincts. If your gut senses a red flag, YOU ARE PROBABLY RIGHT. 
Red flags for agencies in terms of in-country partners:

  • Seeing the same situation in lots of kids’ paperwork (e.g. all the kids are abandoned or all the kids have parents’ deceased; or the same police officer signed off on the abandonment recognition, or the same hospital worker or social worker, etc. is involved in all the cases.)
  • An orphanage partner who wants money off the books.
  • An orphanage partner who can provide much more than anyone else.
  • In-country staff or partners who prevent international staff from accessing or communicating with any relevant parties.
  • Not experiencing the same challenges as other agencies (unless the reasons are obvious). 
I would heavily discourage independent adoptions. I know they are faster and smoother and maybe the only possibility in certain countries, but we want more oversight, not less in international adoption. The more people, systems, and organization in place, the higher the accountability, and I cannot stress this enough: we want the highest possible accountability here. If adoptions are not possible through formal channels, there is probably a reason. This ball is in our court, PAPs. Of the few things we can control, this is one.
This post is infinity long, and I’ve left out so much. Note: you cannot take one blog as your guide. You must do your own research, suss out the truth, ask, study, investigate, Google, dig, push, insist on clarity. Agencies operating above board will welcome your questions, because we all want the same thing: first family preservation if possible, and families for truly orphaned children when it isn’t. Adoption is an answer to a tragedy that has already happened, but may it never be the impetus for one that hasn’t.
In Part 3, we will discuss orphan care outside of adoption, and I can hardly wait. Thank you for sharing your stories this last week. I’ve treasured them, prayed for you, asked God to infuse us all with courage and humility, and begged for His kingdom to come.

What can you add? The power in our collective conversation here cannot be overstated. What have you learned? What have I omitted?  Thank you in advance for filling in gaps with foster and domestic scenarios. So grateful for you.

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Melissa - May 20th, 2013 at 1:12 PM
Thank you so much for being a voice on this important topic. I'd love for you to check out my website on what my ministry, Mercy for Mamas, does towards orphan prevention in Uganda.
Melissa - May 20th, 2013 at 3:12 PM
Laura Watson - May 20th, 2013 at 1:13 PM
I love this series. My husband and I have prayed about adoption for years but have not believed the Lord has given us a green light. My heart still breaks for orphaned children. I love ministries like Bring Love in in ET. Kidmia... Organizations that allow us to hep enable parents to raise their own children. The idea that I could lose one of my kids simply because of finances is unacceptable to me. And if I was deceived into giving up one of my children for someone else's profit - I can hardly type the words. Thank you for giving us ways to help and thank you for shining a light on the whole process - both good and bad. It is the truth that sets us free and allows us to make wise decisions. Thank you for pushing for truth.
Merritt Onsa - June 11th, 2013 at 5:39 PM
Laura - Thank you so much for mentioning Kidmia and Bring Love In and the work both organizations are doing in Ethiopia. http://www.kidmia.org / http://bringlove.in/. I work part time for Kidmia and I really believe in what this organization is doing to help families stay together or to find adoptive Ethiopian families for those who truly are orphaned. And Jen - thanks for opening up a very important, honest conversation!
Marlisa - May 20th, 2013 at 1:19 PM
SO glad you didn't wait until next month to write this follow-up to part A. I applaud you for recognizing the need to provide more specific factual information and to make room for the finer points in this very delicate and complicated process of adoption. I think all of us, both in the process of adopting and after the fact would agree that naivete has no place in adoption. While I truly felt that Part 1 painted the Christian adoption community as well-meaning (but ultiimately self-serving) idiots, I feel that part B really pulls us all back together and unifies the underlying heart of all of us who are involved in both orphan care and adoption, domestic and international. We all want to be informed and make God-honoring practices the standard, supporting only those that prevent trafficking and keep birth families together whenever possible. Thank you so much for quickly posting a very helpful Part 2. I look forward to reading Part 3 soon as well. God bless you.
Amy in Italy - May 20th, 2013 at 1:35 PM
O dear Jen...just last Friday we took our application to become eligible PAPs of two siblings to the courthouse in Rome. Thank you for this list of questions which we will be sure to use at EVERY. SINGLE. AGENCY. we talk to, once we are granted eligibility from Italy. Praying God's protective wing over all His children. Thank you for your heart...and fingers that type this, your amazingly transparent/refreshing blog.
Autumn Buzzell - May 21st, 2013 at 9:46 AM
I am a missionary in Ghana, West Africa and have seen adoptions again and again here in Ghana, some done ethically and other cases filled with corruption. Hague is not a sure answer, certainly. Adoptions through agencies aren't necessarily corruption-free. But, from what I have seen here is that private adoptions allow for more opportunity for the in-country contacts to take advantage. Again and again, I have seen adoptive parents enter the country, their hearts on their sleeves, only to leave and find that their children were not orphaned. That the hundreds of dollars that they spent for the care of their child went into the pockets of the orphanage owners.
I think the best way to avoid these situations is just what Jen is saying...be aware. Know the questions to ask. Hope people accountable in every situation, even if that means that you will have to wait longer or if you will have to release a child back to their home family.
I highly value Jen's blog posts...very necessary in the field of international adoption.
anna - June 1st, 2013 at 5:55 PM
Hi Amy
Are you from Italy? I would love to know more about your process if you are not from Italy. My husband and I are thinking about this very seriously.
Any guidance, websites/agencies would be so helpful.

Kim Van Brunt - May 20th, 2013 at 1:23 PM
I agree with so much of what you wrote here and have mad respect for you, but I am slightly disappointed that two of the major take-home messages here are 1. Hague Convention and 2. Independent adoption is bad.

I'm sure you've read this from Kristen about UNICEF; I would argue that UNICEF is simply helping to put Hague into practice everywhere, even in countries with no infrastructure to support it. http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2012/01/haitian-orphans-two-years-later-still.html
And who loses? The children who wait.

Also, independent adoption shouldn't be painted with such a broad brush, nor should the benefits of "more oversight" with agency adoption. In our independent adoptions, I've been able to push for MORE transparency, not less, because I have direct contact with the in-country players and I can ask all the questions to them. (I realize it isn't always possible to get straight answers in every country.) If you're with an agency, you have to trust them COMPLETELY, as well as the in-country coordinators you have never met and do not have a relationship with, which is the reason for your list of questions (good ones, by the way). There are also agencies with stellar reputations and even Christian leadership that have participated -- knowingly or not -- in horribly corrupt practices in-country.

I really believe the Hague Convention looks so great on paper. Then, when countries adopt it, and there is no infrastructure and a culture that is resistant to domestic adoption, their orphaned kids run completely out of options. Again, who loses?

I think we can do better than this. I don't think many of the current policies and practices truly put the children first. I'm not saying I have the answers, only that what you said is true -- it's SO much more complicated than you can get at even in a long blog post. And I want others to know the other side of Hague and independent adoption, too.
Sarah Hubbell - May 20th, 2013 at 1:49 PM
Completely agree with this. I'm seeing this happen firsthand in Haiti. We have yet to see what will happen when the country goes fully Hague, but all signs point towards the adoptions processed slowing to a trickle. I think there are some good reasons for the changes they have made in an effort to become Hague compliant in Haiti, but history has shown that it isn't a good thing in practice.
Margaret - May 20th, 2013 at 2:18 PM
I really agree with this as well. I understand that an adoption process taking an excessively long time (2, 3, 4 years....) CAN be (and hopefully is) an agency just doing its job really well, but it can ALSO be a government/agency/or other entity milking a PAP for all he/she/they is worth, and the child(ren) languishes, or it can be a political entity using the children to play a political game, etc. I mean, this is such a complicated issue. I really appreciate what you're saying and totally agree with so much of it, but Kim's points are super valid.
Rachel Gustafson - May 20th, 2013 at 6:13 PM
I agree that BOTH independent adoptions and agency adoptions are only as "good" as the ethical practices exercised by each. We can't say all independent adoptions are bad with any better cause than we can say all agencies are bad. And I'm with you as well on the need to consider what the impact is on children waiting in institutions until governments get it "right" with Hague. That's a lot of kids with a lot of days/months/years without families. We have to remember the impact that those months have on children! I imagine waiting children as I'd imagine my own kids waiting, day after day, week after week for stability, love and permanence. It's heartbreaking! And so are the societal consequences of those long waits for permanence (kids who wait longer have worse outcomes long term in terms of criminal justice system, prostitution, etc). We've got to find a better answer for those transition times between policy reforms and enactments!
Kristy - May 20th, 2013 at 8:39 PM
Agreed! And I can personally attest that independent adoptions are not "faster and smoother." And, when a country shuts everything down to "go Hague" its just more months, more years that those children sit in an orpahnage daily reducing their odds of being adopted and developing healthy, happy attachments. It's just more nights where no one comes when they cry and no one feeds them when they're hungry. It's a broken system because we live in a broken world. We can do our due diligence, but Hague and agency no not equal the only or best way to avoid corruption.
Rachel - May 21st, 2013 at 9:42 PM
Please, everyone, watch the STUCK documentary. You can buy it to download online. I totally agree that we all must be vigilant in seeking ethical adoptions, but millions of children are wasting away in orphanages.
Darby - May 24th, 2013 at 11:22 AM
Rachel, please consider other possible solutions [besides international adoption] to the millions of children wasting away in orphanages. Resettlement. Family preservation. Economic empowerment.

QUIT BUILDING ORPHANAGES. At least in Uganda, 95% of the funding for orphanages comes from the West. If the West didn't build the orphanages, many of these cultures would continue their own long-standing, indigenous systems of foster care. If the West didn't build the orphanages, the children wouldn't waste away in them. Other solutions would have to be found. If orphanages aren't good solutions to our vulnerable children here in the US, why are they a valid solution for other countries?

I am working with an organization that has a goal of rendering orphanages unnecessary. We are seeking to equip the birth families to care for their own children. We want to restore kids back to their bio families. We are using investigators to trace the children's original families, social workers to determine why the child ended up in the orphanage in the first place, and then we begin the slow and painstaking process of family visits that lead up to sustainable reunification. Let's teach the nationals how to foster and adopt instead of building orphanages and/or stepping in and taking their children--the future of their country.

Spend some time in these countries where there are millions of "orphans" and see that in so many cases, the children weren't tossed aside like unwanted items. This is a total misconception. In many cases, poverty, disorganized systems and miscarriages of justice are the reason these children end up in an orphanage. I'll give one short example (of many): a single father in Uganda gets in a very bad motorcycle wreck. He is unconscious and unstable in the hospital for weeks. In the meantime, his neighbors take his baby son to the police because the father has disappeared. The police take the baby to an orphanage that will meet his immediate needs. They lose the paper about where they left the baby boy. The father gets out of the hospital and his baby is gone. The police don't know. The neighbors don't know. The father is heartbroken. His only son. Gone.

Now we have a choice: should we internationally adopt the baby? Or should we search for the father? You see, these orphanages realize that searching for the father is in no way lucrative compared to internationally adopting the baby. We have given them no motivation to find out the TRUTH of these kids' backgrounds.

This is what is meant when we say be vigilant in seeking ethical adoptions. Had this baby been internationally adopted, a loving father's heart would still be grieving. A baby boy would grow up never knowing his real home, his first language, his life story.

Please consider supporting organizations that prioritize family preservation, organizations who help overwhelmed mothers to hold on to their children through tough times, organizations who seek the truth whether it's easy or not. There aren't many organizations like this out there. But through our awareness and efforts, more will rise up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=89-6lPA0u84 (the story I just related)
Melodie - May 25th, 2013 at 2:29 PM
What a compelling argument on so many levels, Darby. Thanks for sharing. I worked with adoptions in Liberia for 3 years and family preservation was not even on the radar. We often had a second birth parent show up at our orphanage several months into the adoption process and when he or she wanted the child removed, everyone (including me at times) thought they were so selfish to prevent the adoption. In most cases I know we had no clue as to what was really happening in these family situations. PAP's cried at the loss of a referral, but a family was preserved...
Sharon Fenton - June 7th, 2013 at 9:51 AM
Darby I think I love you. I am a mother of loss to adoption. We are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of mothers who have lost their children to adoption because we were young and poor. With just a little support, a little, even a kind word, we would have avoided our living death. It happens in the western world as well. Agencies coerce young women to relinquish through psychological warfare. Instead of empowering young women to parent, they/we are told we are not good enough. Please check out our Mothers Of Loss page on FB and the Musings of the Lame amongst others. Adoption should be about finding homes for orphans. Not babies for adoptive parents.
Sarah - October 18th, 2016 at 8:26 PM
Sorry, I just have to disagree with your statement: "If the West didn't build the orphanages, many of these cultures would continue their own long-standing, indigenous systems of foster care. If the West didn't build the orphanages, the children wouldn't waste away in them. Other solutions would have to be found."

This view is WAY too black-and-white. I'm honestly curious what your actual experience in such a culture is?

Because, having lived (a year minimum) in three different third world countries, I can say with deep understanding that while your statement might be true in a very limited number of cases, it generally is an american-idealist concept. Because what happened to these kids before the orphanages came doesn't look like domestic adoption/fostering. The "other solutions" involve kids on the streets. Kids without education. Kids starving to death. Kids that are trafficked, abused, killed. Orphanages where, and are, build to try to meet an preexisting need. Often, indigenous systems fail children who aren't perfect: too old, too young, wrong tribe, wrong skin color, any disability or medical need, or even superstitious reasons like thinking the child is possessed or a 'witch' or something. Other places (this happens in Africa a lot) kids or even older poor relations who are 'fostered' are little more than slaves to those who have their guardianship.

The true part of your statement is that "If the West didn't build the orphanages, the children wouldn't waste away in them." Children wouldn't be left to languish in orphanages because they would perished from starvation, abuse, or neglect.

While I agree with you that there is a desperate need for better research (in some agencies/countries/systems--some are already doing a thorough job) and more support for first families, there isn't always a "happily-reunited" ending to the story. Orphanages aren't a perfect solution, by any means, but until you have held in your arms a child who was left to starve by her drug-addicted mother, or cried with a teen as she relates how her mother beat her if she didn't bring home money for food, or seen small children sleeping in the dirt on the streets because they have no family to want them, DON'T SAY "QUIT BUILDING ORPHANAGES". Advocate for ethical adoptions! Support strong, in-country first family ministries! Work for the betterment of economic conditions and more education in third world countries! But consider that sometimes that isn't enough and that sometimes those changes take time. On the ground, in country, things are so much more complicated than they seem from the states. Cultural nuances and political climates can be difficult for outsiders to comprehend. Sometimes, too often, children are left vulnerable and the BEST protection open to them IS an orphanage (or group home, whatever the name) where they will be fed, clothed, cared for, educated and (in some cases) matched with a loving new family. But please, stop thinking orphanages are the problem. Taking away the orphanages is NOT an easy-peasy fix for the myriad problems and stigmas related to race, education, poverty, and medical issues. Orphanages are a sad result, not a cause.
Dominique - May 24th, 2013 at 3:53 PM
Thank you Rachel. As a PAP I am just so discouraged by sudden surge of insight and expertise of parents who already have their children home. It feels like bullying. The underlying assumption that this is the only way we're contributing to orphan care and that my husband and I are total idiots who can't help but be taken advantage of, if not for the warnings of ethical mothers who already have their ethical children in their arms, is just hurtful. STUCK makes it perfectly clear that while adoption is not the only answer it is a real one that sure does matter a lot to the kids.
Jean - May 31st, 2013 at 12:12 PM
I'm not so sure what seems "sudden" about this insight. My husband and I were well aware of the ethical issues involved in IA adoptions BEFORE we began the adoption process 3 years ago. (See PEAR, see ETHICA, see Land of a Gazillion Adoptees)

It drove us to ask VERY detailed questions of the agencies that we were interested in, steer away from some (very tempting) situations, pay more than we would have liked to in order to be a client at an agency which did not deflect our questions, wait longer than we would have liked, take our own translator with us for the birth family visit, demand more detailed files in country during the first visit, equip ourselves with GPS tracking so that we could more easily find the birth family home later (and we've sent back an independent investigator to confirm what we were told by the local orphanage...which is a DIFFERENT entity than the agency we were a client of), chose to adopt an older child (4 years old) from a special needs list...these are GOOD THINGS. This advice does not equal bullying.

There are some difficult parts of my child's story that were hard to hear and grapple with. But I treasure them because they are a part of his unique story. When he turned to me in the dark at bedtime, and everything he remembered poured out of him including how he missed his first father, I was so, so very thankful that I could navigate that conversation knowing that I had done everything possible to to know what we were all getting into. And now have these amazing videos to share and potentially a visit back to his home village to look forward to. The signature of the judge on your visa? That is still just the very, very beginning of adoption. Everything that happened before you took your child home is not magically erased through the formalization of adoption. We all have questions about "Who do we look like? Who else in the world has this funny thing that they do with their foot? Where do I come from? How does my past inform who I am?" Run towards the difficult, the complicated, the uncomfortable on behalf of your child, because you will most likely get asked about it later. Don't take this advice personally, because...well...adoption is not about you. It's about the child. Sometimes it's about your family and the first family, but at the heart of it, it is about the child, their origin story, their truth that you keep in trust for them until they are old enough to hear about it.
Rissa - June 7th, 2013 at 2:32 PM
Jean, this is beautiful. Every word. Love it, and thank you for sharing your story and your heart.
Kate - June 9th, 2013 at 5:39 PM
Please also watch Mercy, Mercy - an independent film showing adoption from both the adoptive and biological parents perspective. It is a Dutch film (with English translation available) that shows the adoption of two young Ethiopian children from pre-adoption to the present time.
Julie - June 3rd, 2013 at 10:01 AM
yes yes yes to everything Kim said....

We found that when we switched to independent we had MORE transparency and we literally had our hands in every.single.step of the process to ensure that it was done to the highest ethical standards.... We knew who did the investigations, we got to ask them questions, we knew the director of the home and what their standards were and inundated them with questions... I think now I would struggle to trust an agency as a middle man knowing that I didn't know who was doing all the ground work for me...

I believe that SOMETIMES agencies don't provide more accountability, they can add more fog to an already cloudy situation
Bethany - May 20th, 2013 at 1:27 PM
Thank you. I can only imagine how exhausted you might be from trying to anticipate and disarm all the many ways your cry for ethical adoptions could be misinterpreted and misrepresented. Reminds me of planning how I would introduce a new project assignment to my high school students ;)...

This is so, so good. We are so, so ready to be on the same page, because when we stand for nothing less than the best, we'll get it for all God's children.

Thank you most of all for empowering PAPs to ask the hard questions and to know that we are NOT being a problem, but already LOVING the children! I know I was made to feel like a burden by one agency, and we got answers that didn't satisfy us - one piece of how we ended up working with CPS in Texas. We need quite a bit of reform here too, but we're on the right track!

Blessings to all walking and praying the steps to any kind of fostering or adoption or orphan care. God is big enough for all these kids.
Jill - May 20th, 2013 at 1:29 PM
I love this and the information that obiviously took a great amount of time that you gathered here. I would like to add the more personally involved and knowledge that you can obtain from your child's story then the better. For instance, I visited Guatemala on mission trips and then became aware a small percentage of the children where I was working and personally involved with that were declared abandoned. God basically laid our child in our lap when we were working down there. There was absolutely no family connections. I had to live there to get my paperwork moving and be personally involved with a lawyer that was more on a grassroots level (not in it for the money). I will be honest, I was frustrated and even envious of others that just zipped down had their baby in their arms one week and gone the next. But I will say this, I had more peace than a lot of others I met that were down there for just a brief period for pick up and zip. What concerned me when I inquired of their stories, is that there were a lot of people that I met that had no clue about their child's story(s) and a lot too seemed to NOT EVEN CARE! This concerned me greatly. How will you help put pieces together for them. While I have no clue who my child's birth parents are, he was literally abandoned without a trace. I can tell him how God used some dear missionary friends as part of his story and how we (his father and I) faught with everything that we had. We sacrificed much to keep me down there for 8 months because quite simply we loved him so deeply. We were even prepared to move there if things shut down, which was fast approaching while we were there. Good stuff, Jen. I was worried and still disagree theologically with you from the last post, but I won't throw the baby out with the bath water, girl. Awareness and reform needs and must happen.
Makenzie - May 20th, 2013 at 1:30 PM
Loved this post! Thank you for presenting a balanced viewpoint. Your list of questions and red flags is very helpful, although it should be said that the US Embassy (at least in Ethiopia) does sometimes expedite cases for special needs orphans needing immediate medical attention. So there are some circumstances (albeit very rare) in which expedition is not an indicator of fraud.
Stacy - May 20th, 2013 at 9:27 PM
Great post, Jen. Thank you. I wanted to add that ethical cases can be expedited for medical reasons. Ours was one since our daughter has a life threatening condition that wasn't able to be managed in her orphanage. Just wanted to point out that expedite doesn't always mean corruption, although I get the point you are trying to make.
Gwenn Mangine - May 20th, 2013 at 1:31 PM
Brilliant. My husband and I are adoptive parents as well as a house parents in a small family- style children's home in Haiti. Between bio, adopted, and (permanent) foster kids we have 12 kids in all-- 10 of whom are Haitian. (Most came to us as non-adoptable older children.) One of the chief motivations for our move to Haiti was our adoption of our (Haitian-born) son. As we dug into the ethical aspects of adoption, we personally felt called to dig deeper into what it means that our son is Haitian. We never imagined that living in Haiti would be the best way to accomplish that but here we are 4 years into our Haiti life with lots of kids. I am super-excited about the third part of your series, because I am interested in what you have to say about orphan care outside of adoption. I have some ideas about better practices in the area of orphan care and am always looking to hear others' ideas.

Sarah Hubbell - May 20th, 2013 at 1:39 PM
Knocked out of the park, my friend. So glad to hear my agency and yours get so involved in the discussion. I think there are things I would add, but I don't want to write a book here in the comments. One thing that heavily influenced my choice of agency, other than tremendous research and references, was prayer. We prayed a lot, but also when I spoke to America World and asked them a hundred questions, the gal on the phone asked if she could pray with me right then and there. She did, and it wrecked me. She not only prayed for guidance for us in our process but for guidance toward whatever agency the Lord would have us choose, even if it was not them.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think choosing an agency should be based on an emotional moment like that, but that told me SO much about them and their way of doing business. And I am not an overly emotional person. I'm an engineer for crying out loud. My job is to collect as much information as humanly possible before moving forward and analyze it to death.

As I said before, Tara Livesay has been super helpful to me. Rather than just giving me her opinions about certain orphanages, she put me in touch with other parents who had adopted from those orphanages. There are plenty of risks we are taking in this whole adoption from Haiti, but going in blind is not what we're doing.

Also I would say that just because an agency has a pilot program in a country does not, in my opinion, mean it should be avoided. Someone has to go first, to take some risks and lead the way for other adoptive families to follow. We felt called to do that in the case of America World's Haiti program. The entire system of adoption there has been shaken up this year, with no more independent adoptions allowed, so there really wasn't an option for choosing an agency with a long history of success there. I have been extremely impressed by how well established AWAA has become in Haiti in such a short time.
Cristie - May 20th, 2013 at 1:41 PM
Thank you, Jen, for a well written list of questions for prospective families. Thank you too for coming back with post #2 that gives a much more complete and balanced approach to adoption. We can't choose to sit on the fence when children languish in orphanages ... but we can SURELY make sure we are choosing agencies working towards a highest standard and educating ourselves BEFORE we begin. As an adopting Momma of two - thank you for this one.
A.C. - May 20th, 2013 at 8:07 PM
Thank you for this more complete and balanced blog in your part 2. I totally agree with Cristie. And pray for best practice reforms in international, domestic, and foster care adoptions. As an adoptive and birth mama to 4 from foster care, my womb, Russia, and Ethiopia I've seen adoption from multiple angles.
Lynette - May 20th, 2013 at 1:45 PM
I'm loving the dialogue from the past two posts! Good stuff! Ryan was also our caseworker and is a stellar guy from a stellar agency. Aaaaaaand... cue long line of people specifically requesting Ryan Hanlon from American World. ;)
Kerry - May 20th, 2013 at 1:51 PM
I really would like to thank you for writing these posts. Since we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia, I've had so many friends show interest in adoption and I always start with "let me talk to you about adoption ethics" and now I can point them to this great post. I am so thankful that way back when I was starting paperwork I read about adoption ethics and kept it at the forefront before getting our referral. I was able to call my agency and ask questions similar to this. It changed the way we went about our entire adoption process. I am so thankful that I know adoption was the only option for my child, I can't imagine the pain of having doubts or trying to explain that to my child later.

We have gotten involved with various organization that work in Ethiopia and other countries that support vulnerable children and families.. "orphan prevention" as I like to call it. You probably know about most of these, but I'd love for you to share in your next post. We had the privilege of visiting the woman we sponsor through the project hopeful sisterhood and the other women, and it really is a legit, wonderful program.

Jasmine - May 20th, 2013 at 1:51 PM
I guess because awaa wrote a blogpost in rebuttals to yours, you had to paint them in a perfect light....but they are not flawless.....and their blogpost was a disgrace.
Colleen Smith - May 20th, 2013 at 2:06 PM
It is as though you are writing a commercial for awaa, in your eyes they are the only reputable agency out there, and it seems the dynamics in which part 1 were written have switched. It's disappointing that you could sell out, respect lost. So many of us had high hopes that you would continue to dig out the truth, but in the end you clearly don't.
Jen Hatmaker - May 20th, 2013 at 2:17 PM
What do you think these questions and investigations would do other than expose fraud and coercion? If they do not represent a "dig for truth," then I have no idea what does. Any PAP asking about birth parents, relinquishment, pay roll, licensing, in-country staff, procedures, reunification initiatives, history, and referrals is on the hunt for truth.
William - May 20th, 2013 at 3:31 PM
I'm calling a party foul on this one. This issue (adoption ethics) does not belong to Mrs. Hatmaker, so to conclude that she failed to dig in to our satisfaction is really a failure of the adoption community, not her or this blog. I've had lots of issues with this topic and largely thought it wasn't as big a deal as it is being made out to be. I have two children through international adoption and have felt very challenged by this blog to think about what my role needs to be moving forward. Honestly, I don't feel that compelled to jump at this problem as much as I do some others, but I want to make sure I am letting The Lord guide my heart and surely the challenges posed in this blog can only help that process.
Jen Hatmaker - May 20th, 2013 at 2:12 PM
I actually didn't have to paint them in any light at all. I wrote most of this last week. Had no idea about that article. No agency is flawless. I hated that they reduced this to a "trendy topic," and they missed a chance to discuss what they actually do to combat fraud, which is extensive. I would've hoped for more engagement in their response, for sure, other than just a rebuttal. Especially since I was discussing adoption ethics at large, not their specific role. I hope that as we move forward in this discussion, PAPs and agencies will be slower to simply defend and point out exceptions and quicker to engage and lead the way.
EJ Phillips - May 20th, 2013 at 2:04 PM
As someone delayed in the process in DRC, I applaud you. Am I bummed that I was weeks away from travel and am now months? Oh my gosh, you bet. But am I thankful they are doing more in depth investigations to insure orphan status? Heck yes. I just wish the State Dept were actually better equipped to do the investigations in a more timely manner. (Our i604 is gonna take about 8 months. This fact makes me throw up a little in my mouth.)

I spoke with a fellow waiting AP on Friday who said, "I don't care how my son became an orphan, I just want to bring him home." I told him how we (and our agency) walked away from a referral because a random relative popped up and wanted a bribe. He said, "Those kids would be better in America with you." I said, "Ummmm...then I would be a child trafficker." The conversation went down hill from there until thankfully my toddler had a meltdown which is what happens when you take a 3 year old and a 6 year old to a march in DC and none of the ice cream trucks along the route take credit cards.
Tara - May 20th, 2013 at 2:44 PM
EJ Phillips,
Thank you for doing that. You got the response that we often get. The blank stare. "What? Taking someone's kid without their consent is... wha?!?!?" There is an undercurrent that involves privilege .... America privilege, consumer privilege, Christian privilege, white privilege, whatever it is ... probably some combination of all .... that says "I am better for this kid than you, stupid, pathetic, poor person." At times that is true, at times a terrible poor or mentally ill parent cannot care for a child --- but not always and not even usually. It doesn't take all that much to love a first family and give them a hand up, it doesn't take much to encourage and cheer on a first Mother. (Speaking as a mother myself, and as a person that works with all ages of poor and young first mothers that are pregnant). For a fraction of an adoption cost a family can remain united. Yes, I live in reality, and I know that most prospective adoptive parents are not interested in just giving to give when we will receive nothing in return. I get that somewhere along the line a lot of adoptive parents become consumers with a ton of consumer rights and once they are emotionally involved they cannot see the big picture but only have tunnel vision to the child that they believe is theirs. *****Bravo to you STANDING AND APPLAUDING -- thanks for caring about the rights of the poor. (and the rights of first families) I wish there were more people like you. Ethnocentricity and Adoptive parent- centricity needs to die a speedy death when it comes to adoption.
Dan - May 20th, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Tara, for you to judge the motives of others (not to mention resort to name calling - and using sophisticated sounding words to belittle and insult others is still name calling and bullying) is rather presumptuous and not particularly helpful. Sure, there are uninformed viewpoints about adoption and yes, statements that suggest getting a child to the US is more important than preserving a first family require a thoughtful discussion with those who hold those viewpoints. I have encountered APs like that, I dare say most of us have. Just have the grace to look beyond the words you might disagree with and look into their hearts. They think they are doing the right thing and if you have someone who wants to do the right thing, might I suggest that you have some great raw material to work with. You can educate, share facts and approach them with curiosity and courtesy and I bet that more often than not, make some progress.

But here is the thing about this whole line of discussion. You're all raging and shadowboxing against people who want to help other human beings. Most AP's are thoughtful, well educated people who learn about the pitfalls of adoption, the risks, the issues and who become determined to ensure that their adoptions are legit and that they are the last resort for these kids and then they go to on become FIERCE advocates for first families. I lived in Africa for ten years. I am an AP and I have donated far more to preserving first families than I have spent on adoption. I went to the Somali boarder to personally interview the officer who found our daughter abandoned on the street to ensure it was ligit. I did this against the urgent advice of the Embassy who told me not to go because of the risks (and even as an experienced African hand, I found it extremely risky and difficult and I've lived through a civil war). Almost every AP I encountered did the same thing: turn over every stone to ensure that their adoption was legit and that they were the last resort.

Your tone is incredibly condescending and elitist sounding as you shadow box with these evil 'xyz-privileged' people. Give it a rest. Educate, be humble, treat others with respect, work with the motives of love and concern that live in their hearts. Threads like this are contributing to the pendulum swinging too far in one direction. Adoption is not evil, but you're making AP's sound like selfish pathetic jerks. Who would ever adopt if they knew they were going to be subjected to name calling and be accused of 'trafficking'. Adoption is not the total answer and first family preservation is not the only answer. There is a place for both.
Tara - May 21st, 2013 at 9:14 PM
Dan - Nobody said there was not a place for both adoption and family preservation.

Nobody.Said.That. (I keep looking and looking and nobody says that.)

I don't know what sophisticated words I used.

Some adoptive parents are selfish, Dan. Some orphanages are trafficking kids.

"It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry." (Thomas Paine)

(you call it raging and shadowboxing. I call it critical analysis of myself, my husband, all adoptive parents, all orphanage operators, all agencies, and the entire movement.)
dan - May 24th, 2013 at 9:49 PM
Tara, I rest my case.
MAW - June 1st, 2013 at 9:46 PM

I believe that though some of your points have validity, there is definitely a narrow minded perspective you are taking, and to assume that so many of us are unaware, or not caring about the rights of poor people, is unfair. I am adopted, and my husband grew up in a war torn country in Africa. To assume that we just don't get it, or are not concerned with the poverty that strikes so many in other countries, is not also taking the time to understand our viewpoints or backgrounds. As two people who are currently in the midst of an adoption, we certainly have pushed ourselves to try and view the situation from all angles, including how unfortunate it is that there was a situation which our child's birthmother/birthfather felt that the only option they had was to abandon their child. Though it would be extremely difficult to lose a referral, I know that both of us would ultimately be ok knowing that this child was reunited with their family. After just concluding over nine months of investigation by both US and foreign officials, if the child is in fact truly abandoned, we would like to believe that we can be a second tier solution, and certainly know that we will try our best to raise this child in a loving, safe home.
Angie - May 20th, 2013 at 2:10 PM
RE: Domestic adoption and caring for "orphans" here in the US. There is a ministry at our church that serves as an extension to the educational classes that our local crisis pregnancy center provides. It takes on the form of a support group for all of us moms, as we discuss child development and pray for one another. We have found that this is a HUGE need and that these types of groups are virtually nonexistent, for the women who have chosen to give their child life and desperately need that "village" to help them walk out the decision they have made. I read the following to our church on Orphan Sunday as an adoptive mom and advocate this ministry. (It's long, sorry.)

The fact that our son is adopted really doesn%u2019t have much bearing on our relationship with him now, he%u2019s just ours and life with him is normal. But, the process of his coming to our family is what was unique, and the most significant part of that process for me was growing a deep love for his birth mom ("K"), who we met briefly in the hospital and had a limited amount of communication for the first few months of his life. There isn%u2019t a day that goes by that I don%u2019t think of her and pray for her. I can%u2019t love my son without loving her. Through our love for K we were always aware that there was another side of Evan%u2019s adoption; she was in an even more vulnerable position than he was. We were joyfully welcoming Evan into our family, which was her desire - that he have a mom and a dad who could give him what she couldn%u2019t. But, who welcomed her? Who takes care of her, even now? Who helps her raise her children? Who is her friend? K was really the "orphan" in our situation.

We want you to realize that orphan care is really about welcoming and caring for those who are vulnerable. We can only care for people if we know them, so step one is to open our lives to welcome others in. And then we must actually love them, which I believe is born and grown in prayer. I prayed Psalm 40 for our baby%u2019s birth mom for more than a year before I ever met her, which caused my heart to love her and desire God%u2019s blessing to fall on her. I pleaded with the Lord to be her helper and deliverer, whoever she was and whatever that meant. That year of prayer was a labor in %u201Corphan care%u201D at that time, and when we first met K and hugged her in her hospital room the first words out of our mouths were, %u201CWe love you so much.%u201D She believed us when we said that we loved her, because we did.

We want to encourage you with this - one sign that our church has truly answered the call of orphan care is when each of us can name someone we personally know and truly love, who is vulnerable, and we ache to see God make these verses become the story of his/her life. %u201CI waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God."

Angie - May 20th, 2013 at 8:43 PM
As if my longwinded comment wasn't arduous enough, I apparently wrote it in some sort of cryptic code. Sorry bout that. No idea what happened there.
Patricia Orlando - May 21st, 2013 at 8:30 AM
Thank you for this post. I am a birth grandmother. My daughter placed her son with his parents two days after she gave birth. Until six weeks before she gave birth she was going to parent him, living with us. I quit my job to help with the baby so she could continue her schooling at the University. Our house was ready for him to come home. But her situation changed with the birth father six weeks prior to giving birth and she decided that she did not want a life for her son where he would be used as a pawn between she and the birth father. It was agonizing for me. He is my first grandchild and I love him very much. At the signing away of her parental rights I literally lost my breath, like it had been knocked out of me. I held him in the nursery for 30 minutes talking to him, telling him we loved him and to never forget us. It was agonizing. At that time I knew the law and I knew that the adoptive parents could take him and we would never see him again. It was the reality we lived in. We were at the mercy of two people. It was very humbling (which isn't a bad place to be).

What has made this situation redemptive is the attitude and actions of our grandson's adoptive parents. They are Christians. They serve the same Lord we do. They, like you, love my daughter, honor her and validate her role in our grandson's life. Not only that, they love my husband and I, honor us as his grandparents and validate and encourage our role as his grandparents. We have learned what Christ meant when He said to prefer your brother and sisters over yourselves. Our relationship with them has given us a new perspective on all our relationships. So grateful that they do not call him an orphan. He has never been an orphan. He has always been part of a family; never forsaken. My daughter could not be his parent but she has never stopped being his mother. She loves him deeply and the bond they share is there; she will not deny and neither do his parents.

What has been challenging to us has been society's (Christian and secular) bias towards birth families or family's of origin. You can't imagine the things people with say without realizing what they are saying. "Now he is with a loving family" "Aren't you lucky they let you see him" "they are very nice to let you see him" "What is wrong with you and your husband that you let your daughter do that?" "why didn't you adopt him?" "You need to stop wanting to see him, let him go and be with his new family" "you are setting yourself up for an emotional let down" "How long do you think they are going to let you see him?" It is interesting to me that for the six weeks prior to giving birth when my daughter was making her placement plans she was a hero for "loving" decision (the agency's rhetoric) but after she placed him she needed to disappear. The expectation was that her "loving" him meant never seeing him again??? Thank God our adoptive family didn't think that way.

Was it rough going? Absolutely but I attribute most of the roughness to outside voices. The agency social worker told them to keep their distance from us as if we had the plague. People whispering fear into their ears. We had our own voices of shame and guilt to deal with. Honestly we, as a birth family, were made to feel morally inferior.

We have come out of the guilt and shame. I have to say the reaction of the people around us smacks of the pharisees found in the Bible. I am so glad to have passed through to the other side. IT would not have happened if our adoptive parents were not who they are and did not embrace our whole family, not out of pity but out of LOVE. We are truly loved and that has made all the difference in our lives, individually and collectively as a family. Our family was vulnerable and our adoptive family didn't succumb to the pharisitical attitudes of our society. SO grateful. So grateful for you post and for this blog. The openess of communication is refreshing. Writing this is therapeutic.

THank you and blessings

Patricia O
laurap - May 21st, 2013 at 1:57 PM
Patricia O,
Thank you for sharing your story. I'm sorry you were treated so badly. I would give anything for my daughter to have a healthy relationship with her bio family. I'm so glad your family, your whole family, has a close bond.
Laura P

Jen Hatmaker - May 21st, 2013 at 4:20 PM
This is a wonderful perspective, Patricia. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell your story. So helpful to hear it from your side...you are so right about the fear that is propagated toward birth families involvement. Really appreciate this.
Dorothy in FL - June 6th, 2013 at 8:07 AM
Thank you for giving your story, Patricia! We are parents to children who came to us through biology and through adoption. We are parents who have lost an infant, and know the deep mourning of *not* bringing that baby home from the hospital. We are birth parent advocates. We are adoptive parents who highly value the places from where each of our children came.

Not every domestic situation has pretty stories of loving birth parents who choose to relinquish their rights. But even those children who have been removed from their first homes deserve to hear of the value of their first parents. We cherish the full gradient of "openness" in domestic adoption because we understand that means different things to each adoptive or birth family.

My children's first parents produced unique kids that my husband and I, genetically, could not. We have a home that their first parents could not provide at the time. God did choose for us to be together, for His purposes because that's where He wanted them to grow and to Become who they are to Become. I love being able to confidently tell my kids that. It makes me a partner with their first parent in God's plan for them (as opposed to the rescuer...which we are anything but!)

Adoption is about redemption--God taking what was broken, and making it new. Until we once again live in a perfect world, carry on, Jen Hatmaker!
Cindy - May 20th, 2013 at 2:12 PM
Is there a link to the AWAA blog post?
Jennifer - May 20th, 2013 at 2:13 PM
Then there are several of us who went through AWAA and...our children were trafficked. Yes, this side of AWAA is wonderful and seems to be ethical...but there is for sure a huge break down on the other side of the country. So even with research...these things are still taking place. Sigghhh...
Jen Hatmaker - May 20th, 2013 at 2:59 PM
Yes. And it doesn't take much research to find plenty of breakdowns. The comment section of Part 1 alone is chilling. Here is my hope, Jennifer: press. Press into your kids' story, into their journey to the orphanage, into the details of their investigation, and do it at the agency level. Like I told you, how else will an agency be held accountable to ethical issues unless those who have evidence to the contrary alert them? If there is an unscrupulous investigator, or worse, solicitor out in the country misleading parents or coercing children away, WE NEED TO KNOW IT. More importantly, AGENCIES need to know it, or better, know you know. Until we call all the players here to reform, this will continue. You know I don't think AWAA is perfect. I know they aren't, as their "rebuttal" to Part One indicates, which I found reactive and defensive instead of proactive and helpful. I am not here today to make a case for or against specific agencies today. That is too narrow for this post.
Jennifer - May 20th, 2013 at 3:24 PM
Thanks. Just needed to hear it I guess...that's what I thought we had talked about and agreed upon. :) Yes...you are exactly right and that is what all of us with AWAA need to do... continue to hound them...even when we get a response that is not acceptable. We need to not just take it and back down.
And I agree about their "rebuttal"...
Jennifer - May 20th, 2013 at 2:19 PM
We are doing essentially an independent adoption with a country we've been very involved in with mission work. Working with the missionaries and directly with the orphanage we know is reputable from the established missionary community. So, indenpendent isn't always bad. Sometimes it make you MORE certain of the circumstances of the child.
Jill - May 20th, 2013 at 2:29 PM
I totally agree, Jennifer. Personally, we found out way more information by doing an independent adoption. Not that we even pursued, said independent was our idea situation, or would tell someone to do an independent adoption (by golly, it is a HARD tough road that you feel completely by yourself at times), but God led us to it through our work in our child's birth country through our work there. I wouldn't change a thing and feel COMPLETELY at peace about how they come into our home.
Amy - May 20th, 2013 at 2:22 PM
I have a question...who do we talk to in order to "turn in" our agency? We had so many red flags throughout our adoption process. I just haven't researched enough to know where to start.
Anonymous - May 20th, 2013 at 2:39 PM
Astate licensing board for one; if they are Hague acredited, then COA, the accrediting body; and the Department of State if it was an international adoption.
John McCollum, Executive Director, Asia's Hope - May 20th, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Great series. I have so much to say on this topic that I should probably just wait until I have time to fully structure my thoughts, but heck. I'll go ahead and give a quick response.

First of all, I appreciate all the hard work you put into crafting these posts. It reminds me a lot of a post I wrote last year based on interview with your friend and mine, Marla Taviano.


I hope this doesn't come across as a rant. If it does, I apologize.

As an adoptive parent (2 international, 1 domestic, all trans-racial), I'm a huge proponent of adoption in general, and an increasingly passionate critic of the way orphan care and adoption go down worldwide.

There are many reasons why our organization has decided to not be involved in international adoption, and has instead focused on providing the best possible care for orphaned children in the countries in which they were born. The corrupting influence of profit motive aside, we're looking to create permanent homes for these kids where they can bond to their new parents and siblings, and that would be impossible if kids were constantly being groomed for and sent away to international adoptive families.

What I wish churches and Christians would realize is that international adoption can NEVER solve -- or even substantially address -- the worldwide orphan problem. Expecting it to do so is something like looking to the NBA draft to solve inner city poverty. The numbers just don't work out, and never will.

There are more than 153 million orphans in the world. You could increase the number of international adoptions 100 times over (which wouldn't happen even if adoption was free and easy -- neither the demand nor the infrastructure exist) and you'd still have more than 150 million orphans left uncared for.

UNICEF's (not to mention some of the largest Christian organizations that exist to advocate for orphans) anti-orphanage, pro-family-reunification agenda is equally utopian and unrealistic. For a substantial portion of the world's orphans, there is no possible way to safely return them to their families or communities of origin.

Christians and churches need to be putting their time, money and energy into creating innovative solutions that are ethical, scalable and reproducible, and that rely substantially on indigenous workers to care for the tens of millions of orphaned children that will never be adopted or returned to their families. I don't look at this as an either/or. It's a both/and. We need adoptive families AND we need people willing to support well-run orphan homes. But just in terms of numbers of children who can be helped, international adoption should be near the bottom rather than the top of the list of priorities for churches and Christians who are interested in saving the lives of orphaned children at high risk of sexual and economic exploitation.

Adoptive parents should be the loudest advocates not only for their own adopted children, but for those who will never be adopted.
Lee H. - May 20th, 2013 at 3:08 PM
I want to add that it's time to listen to many of the grown-up adopted "children" and ask them what life was like for them and learn from that...it was not so great...many of us were not CHOSEN as we were taught...this from an adoptee and also an adoptive mother...ask the people who have lived the experience...Adopted children often look fine on the surface....I could make myself look perfect, and was very successful...it was not until I got older that grief and pain surfaced....complicated and complex beyond measure

I think our daughter may have been trafficked besides...and I went into adoption with all of the best intentions as well...intentions don't cut it
John McCollum, Executive Director, Asia's Hope - May 20th, 2013 at 5:51 PM
Lee, I agree that it's complicated. Our two oldest are entering their teen years, and some of their long-held views about themselves are surfacing. We've always tried to be as open as possible with them, but there are still some things they've obviously kept to themselves.

We have a counselor with experience with adoptees. That's been very helpful.
Melissa - May 20th, 2013 at 2:40 PM
***** the line for adoptable healthy babies is very long, and every last one of them will be chosen, even those not born yet********

EEEK! Sister....have you held infants in Rwanda who are healthy but will never be adopted? I have. This sentence hurts my heart.
Jen Hatmaker - May 20th, 2013 at 3:02 PM
The key is "adoptable." If a baby is adoptable in a country that sanctions international adoption, there is a waiting list for him. Rwanda is a closed country, so obviously those babies will not be adopted internationally. This, of course, leaves millions of children who will never be adoptable, in which case we start making a case for orphan care OUTSIDE of adoption, which I'll discuss in Part Three.
Jennifer - May 20th, 2013 at 2:42 PM
Jen, thank you so much for talking about the older kids. If anyone interested in providing homes for refugee teenagers without caregivers, you might consider International Foster Care. This program is our government's solution to orphaned teens from conflict zones, and referrals come directly from UN refugee camps. The programs are managed by Catholic Charities and Lutheran Services at 22 sites in the US (only sites in TX are Fort Worth and Houston). For more info and locations please see: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/resource/unaccompanied-refugee-minors
Sandy - May 20th, 2013 at 2:49 PM
Enjoying your series...

Wish you had noted the "red flag" of gag clauses in adoption contracts...and am not speaking to how the complaint process is handled. Gag clauses...
Heidi - May 20th, 2013 at 3:24 PM
thank you thank you thank you. awesome posts, keep up the great work.
Kameron - May 20th, 2013 at 3:38 PM
I wish you would have swapped this with Part I.... I still have several significant issues with your Part I, but at least you did some further explanation here and I believe this Part II will be both informative and beneficial for those just entering adoption land, or those who are naive.
Misty - May 20th, 2013 at 3:57 PM
Like some others who have commented, I had some major issues with Part 1, but you seem to be arguing your points a little better in Part 2. What bothers me most is where is Jesus? Where is the picture of the gospel? Our own beautiful adoption into the Kingdom of God that cost the Son his life? Social justice will always fall flat without the gospel. Let us remember what our own adoptions cost and let us not question God's sovereignty in His plan to bring all those who He has called to Himself.
T. - May 20th, 2013 at 4:18 PM

I don't get it. I don't get the question "Where is Jesus?" What does Jesus dying for us on the cross have to do with Jen Hatmaker asking that we all care more about ETHICAL adoption??? That we be sure we are not trampling on the poor? Where is this leap happening where people are being asked to care about ethics but somehow they read it and decide they are being asked not to adopt? How is God's sovereignty made void by a healthy and honest and critical look at the harm we can cause when we go in blind and dumb. I am totally confused by that landing place.

William - May 20th, 2013 at 4:41 PM
I don't know Misty, and I certainly don't speak for her, but I believe her question is asking to ensure we don't lose sight of the gospel in our reaching out to orphans (or any other worthy pursuit). If a person professes to be a Christian, the answer to your question, "What does Jesus dying for us on the cross have to do with ...", is it has everything to do with it. The gospel should be used as a lens for all that the believer does. Caring for orphans, helping the disadvantaged, answering all manner of physical needs are endeavors that are valuable and important, but absent the gospel, they are just worldly pursuits that lack eternal implications. As far as God's sovereignty, I believe there are times in our lives where we won't get the answers we want and our faith is all that is left. I pray that God will grant all of us the faith to trust that His sovereign plan is better for all of us that what we think.
Dawn - May 20th, 2013 at 5:15 PM
Where is Jesus? I don't get this comment at all. Can you explain? I'm pretty sure that when the teacher says "who is against child trafficking?", Jesus raises his hand REALLY REALLY high.

What better picture of the gospel could there possibly be than followers of Christ doing everything they can to protect the orphaned, the widowed and the poor?

T. - May 20th, 2013 at 6:44 PM
AMEN Dawn. Jesus loves justice. Adoption is His thing too. But claiming Jen is missing out on Jesus is pretty off base.
William - May 20th, 2013 at 8:38 PM
I think the challenge is that we ensure we are explicitly speaking about Jesus. No one would suggest that this blog is absent Jesus, it is simply a challenge to ensure that Jesus is still the main thing. If the enemies of God can convince Christians that all that is necessary is to do good works in the world, he has won and the Gospel is devalued. If you ask Jesus if he is against child trafficking he will surely answer yes, but this is not his primary concern, he will always be jealous for our souls. This may seem like semantics, but I humbly submit to you that it matters.

I also totally agree that caring for widows and orphans presents perhaps the best demonstration of the gospel, but if we don't explicitly talk about it as such, those impact will not know.
Kate - May 20th, 2013 at 4:14 PM
Have you read "The Child Catchers" by journalist Kathryn Joyce? It's a new, fascinating book on this topic.
John McCollum - May 20th, 2013 at 5:54 PM
I think I really need to point out that "The Child Catchers" is an extremely biased hackjob by someone who is extremely anti-Christian. There are much better, less slander-driven resources on the problems with unethical adoptions...
Kate - May 20th, 2013 at 6:56 PM
Do you have any examples of these resources, John? I'd love to read them.

Regarding your opinion of "The Child Catchers," I completely disagree. I found the book to be a fair and even-handed analysis and appropriate critique of a movement that has largely been considered an unqualified good, but which we are learning is not.

At the end of the day, I'm encouraged by the extent to which Christians and others committed to social justice are engaged in a critical dialogue about the myriad issues involved in international adoption, even if those involved in the dialogue don't always agree with each other. I also hope that the dialogue can remain civil, kind, and focused on solving the problem, and where words like "hackjob" and "slander-driven" aren't thrown around baselessly and needlessly.
John McCollum - May 20th, 2013 at 7:49 PM
Actually, I'll walk that back a little bit. I apologize for my testy response and hyperbolic language. It's been a long day.

I'm all for critical dialogue.
Jaime - May 29th, 2013 at 4:02 PM
^Kinda awesome response, John. Almost never seen on blog comments. Props.
Kate - June 9th, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Agreed with above. I appreciate your response, John, and I would love to continue the critical dialogue. It needs more people like you.
Rachel - May 20th, 2013 at 4:16 PM

One correction right off the bat: of the 13 million orphans who are double orphans, the vast majority are living with relatives. http://www.unicef.org/media/media_45279.html
For the record, of the people most active in orphan care, I see adoptive parents at the top of the list. I attended an event hosted by glimmer of hope in Austin and the room was utterly packed with adoptive families. Which is what made your last post particularly insulting. I don't know any adoptive parents who see adoption versus orphan care as an either or proposition.

Rachelle - May 20th, 2013 at 4:47 PM
I am super glad you don't know any that do Rachel. You're hanging out in the right place. That is not my experience at all. Austin is progressive, it must be or Hatmaker wouldn't live there.
rachel - May 21st, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Jen Hatmaker, a progressive? That's funny! For example, in her "After the Airport" post, she blogged, "I'm constantly cleaning up pee because uncircumcised tee-tee goes sideways onto walls." Most of the world is uncircumcised. What a ridiculous thing to say! This idea of corruption in adoption is neither new nor forward-thinking. I blogged about it in 2010. Lara "The Farmer's Wife" blogged about it 2010 when she left the Ethiopian healthy infant program for Uganda. Shortly after, Ethiopia itself cut its adoption program by 90% to address the issue of adoption fraud. This was no secret. It's happened before, in China, Guatemala, Vietnam. The Hague Convention opened back in 1994 to address corruption in adoption. http://adoption.state.gov/hague_convention/overview.php
The idea that adoption is not the solution to the orphan crisis is also not new. Again back in 2010, Kristen of Rage Against the Minivan blogged that adoption was not the solution for most of the world's orphans: http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2010/10/what-you-can-do.html
Feeding into the polarity regarding adoption is also not forward-thinking. Again, Kristen from Rage Against the Minivan addresses the issue beautifully here:http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2013/05/two-streams-of-same-river.html
Unfortunately, tackling these issues in a way that is calm, thoughtful, respectful, and thoroughly researched does not generate nearly as much blog traffic.
Trace - May 24th, 2013 at 12:17 AM
Rachel, I find it both hilarious and disgusting that you criticize Jen for not being "calm, thoughtful, respectful and thoroughly researched" for essentially being two years later than you and two other bloggers in tackling these issues (keep in mind that in 2010, she was just beginning her personal adoption journey) -- and for claiming that an uncircumcised penis might be more likely to spray the wall than the urinal. If you knew Jen at all, you would know she does not pander to an audience. She has a bigger, more hopeful heart than anyone I've ever met, and she writes what she writes in an effort to effect meaningful change. She's no publicity hound -- she's a real person who wants to make a difference for good. Unfortunately, she also has to deal with people who would rather tear her down than engage in meaningful dialogue -- people like you -- and for that, I am sorry for both her and those people who gain more satisfaction from tearing her down than building anything up.
Brad - May 24th, 2013 at 9:44 PM
Guy's perspective here. A circumcised penis does not 'spray pee' more than an uncirc'd dude. Second, have a little respect for the kid. Stop talking about his penis on the internet. Have some class! I don't know Jen, but she seem too shoot her mouth off with out thinking it through. Having a big heart doesn't really excuse that. It sounds like you are good friends with her...maybe give her some advice.
rachel - May 25th, 2013 at 3:24 PM
I was not criticizing her for being 'two years late'. I was only saying that this isn't a new concept. Tackling these issues in a thoughtful, respectful, and well-researched way is a separate issue. Part of this reason that evangelicals are in this conundrum is because a few Christian organizations misinterpreted the 150 million orphans statistic and ran with it. My secular friends were the ones who filled me in on the fallacy of 150 million double orphans, several years ago. They were frustrated by the number of Christians making their (adopted) kids look like charity cases. It also perpetuated the stereotype of the evangelical movement being anti-intellectual. The Bible says that leaders in the church are held to a higher standard. Given that so many people look up to Jen and trust her words, it is especially important that she present information that is true (well researched) and respectful.
Given she herself unintentionally perpetuated un-truths (like 170 million orphans), I would expect her to have a little more grace with other Christ-followers who may not have a handle on what the situation exactly is right now. It's hard to know what to believe when so many people are saying so many different things, so loudly.
As for the part about circumcision, it's a.) not true. My son is not circumcised (nor are many of my friends' boys) and I have never heard of it affecting their ability to urinate. B.) Disclosing that kind of personal info on the internet dishonors her son and shows a tremendous lack of judgement.
Ryan - May 21st, 2013 at 7:17 PM
Rachel, Remember that UNICEF gets their data from household surveys... so needless to say they likely aren't counting all the orphans that way.
Leah - May 20th, 2013 at 4:25 PM
SERBIA! I have adopted from Serbia three times. (just came home with our newest son 3 weeks ago.) In Serbia you work directly with the Serbian ministry. Contrary to what us agencies are saying, there is only ONE approved to operate in Serbia, and they're fast on their way to loosing it because they're violating the transparent process Serbia has established.

As for the suggested questions, this goes for "non profit photo-listing organizations" as well. Funny when I asked those "hard" questions, when we ran head on into corruption that turned into an investigation in Serbia (for which I had to return to Serbia to give testimony) I was called "mentally unstable", "pathological liar" a "lunatic" and a "troublemaker" by a very popular non-profit (which has given away $30,000 to a different organization in the last 3 years).
Kristen - May 20th, 2013 at 4:26 PM
I guess Indian orphans were left out of the mix since India alone has more orphans than what's cited by UNICEF and I for one, would never trust ANY numerical study done by UNICEF. Maybe check with each country's government for numbers collected by themselves?? http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/NewDelhi/About-20m-kids-in-India-orphans-Study/Article1-725905.aspx

Ryan - May 21st, 2013 at 7:33 PM
Kristen, You're right. As noted above, UNICEF counts kids by doing household surveys. Since not many households exist inside orphanages and refugee camps, they likely miss one or two or a million orphans in every country.
Kristen - May 20th, 2013 at 4:30 PM
Hey Jen-
I am so excited for your part 3, Orphan Care OUTSIDE of Adoption. May I throw in a shameless plug here for the organization I work for? Kids Alive International (www.kidsalive.org) does orphan care all over the world, but places kids in family homes with Christian houseparents that are native to the country. I adore this model and believe so heartily in the work that Kids Alive does.
I'm currently a teacher at a Kids Alive school in Haiti, but Kids Alive residential homes, care centers, and schools exist all over the world.
Kelsey - May 20th, 2013 at 4:37 PM
I want to agree with one of the bullet points re: if an agency is promising something other agencies don't or can't to run for the hills. When the Ethiopia wait got really long through our agency, we did some research to figure out if there was another avenue. In the end, we stuck with our agency and its multiple year wait because what we found was that any agency promising a shorter wait also had MANY sketchy things that couldn't get cleared up for us. There was one agency in particular we looked into - A Love Beyond Borders - that had a lot of positive information on it, but we discovered that they work with another agency in-country - Adoption Avenues - that has a TON of fishy stuff going on. I called all their references and stalked blogs to find families who weren't on the reference list and even when my questions were answered, I still had this nagging feeling. I finally said to my husband, "After talking to 20 families, I should feel at peace, right?" But we didn't so we decided to stick with our current agency and wait it out. The truly odd thing was that the agencies had answers ready for my questions. They explained why their wait was shorter, explained why they had to work with a separate agency, explained away all my concerns, but it just still didn't feel right. After the fact I had an adoptive parent email me and share some horrifying information about Adoption Avenues, but she asked me not to share her name or that she shared the information for fear of BEING SUED. That's right. They threatened to sue the adoptive families if they shared details of their adoptions. It makes me mad as hell and sick to my stomach that there are agencies who are operating like that - taking advantage of naive adoptive families at the very least and more than likely trafficking children. It's a complicated and overwhelming job to find a reputable agency. And the thing is, the sketchy ones are probably good at explaining away the sketch. That's the scary part. To be honest, I'm not sure we would have known what questions to ask had we not already been so deep in the process. I wish I had had these questions and things to consider at the front end. Thank you for making them available! My advice to PAPs is to listen to that gut feeling and remember that your timeline and preferences are not worth treating a child like an object to be purchased. Look at it as your first chance to parent your future child - you have to be willing to put their best interest before yours. Don't let your longing for a child cloud your view so much that you can't see the red flags. And ultimately, trust the Lord with your hopes and your future children. He is trustworthy!
Amy - May 20th, 2013 at 4:48 PM
I just have to say that our agency may or may not have been operating ethically. BUT we have a son and daughter now that are no longer on a waiting list. They have no living parents (double orphaned), and no extended family willing or capable to care for them. We have had some very open conversations about all this, talking about whether they understood why they were coming to America and if they knew what adoption meant when they joined our family. They both emphatically have confirmed that they knew they were joining our family forever. If we hadn't used the agency we did, we would not have been allowed to adopt these two children (we were a young couple, with a very small bio child, adopting out of birth order). They might still be languishing on a waiting list, but instead they have parents and a family. Yes, some agencies are unethical. Ours might have been one of those. But not every adoption out of these agencies is unethical.
Gillian - May 20th, 2013 at 5:12 PM
Whoa, I'm so confused, Amy. If your agency "may or may not have been operating ethically" how do you know that your children don't ACTUALLY have a first family? That's exactly the type of thing an unethical agency would cover up. Also, it sounds like they were in fact unethical because they pushed you through a system that otherwise wouldn't have let you through...likely for valid reason. Your comment makes it seem like you wanted your children no matter the carnage it caused and that's exactly what this whole series is attempting to avoid.
coleen - May 20th, 2013 at 4:59 PM
I meant to comment after the first post, but got sidetracked. Thank you, Jen, for taking a stand. It's courageous, and it won't come without those who vehemently disagree. If anyone is interested in more info, a dear friend of mine has been posting about adoption in Congo for some time. Her blog is kitumaini.blogspot.com

Also, we've started a non-profit whose first project is focused on reunification of kids in an orphanage and helping kids with school fees in eastern DRC (Congo). Shameless plug alert: we'd love for you to check it out and support our work!
Maralee - May 20th, 2013 at 5:44 PM
Well done! Thanks for covering my concerns about affirming a parent's informed choice of adoption for a child before looking at the ethical issues. That made it easier to see your heart and know we're all on the same team.
International adoption could learn something from looking at the Baby Scoop Era of domestic adoptions. Even if the adoption was in the child's best interest, lasting damage was done when everybody wasn't given the ability to give informed consent and the domestic adoption industry still deals with the ramifications. Same thing with adoptions of Native American children- we have laws to protect these kids (Indian Child Welfare Act) and keep them in their tribes because for so long that process was handled poorly. Now those laws can also keep kids from having timely permanency, which is frustrating, but that's what happens when you let unethical practices happen for too long- the pendulum has to swing back the other direction. If people want to see international adoptions continue at all, then it's best for us to demand accountability before countries shut down (like so many already have). My heart is so with you as an adoptive parent of both a child from a country that is now closed (Liberia) and a Native American child.
Juli Evans - May 20th, 2013 at 7:08 PM
Thank you for this commentary! It is so hard but so important. With adoption comes so much doubt and unanswered questions. We all,pray we have done the right thing. We adopted to buys ages 3 & 5 and we were able to meet with their father. It still haunts me that if things could have been different in their Ethiopian village and if their mom could have had malaria medication they would be with them but I can't imagine them not with us. Our heart is now drawn back to Ethiopia for a 14 year old we met while we were there. The older kids break my heart. We need to find the answer for these older children who will age out soon. I don't know wheat that answer is but I know with all of these people with hearts for orphans we will find an answer. Thank you for the raw commentary! It is so important.
D - May 20th, 2013 at 8:06 PM
Thank you for the conversation. It's time we put all the cards on the table to help people make good decisions about adoptions and how to do it ethically. But while we are talking ethics I hope you'll write about adoptee ethics as well. In my experience we have seen many problems that go on in orphanages started by the adopting parents. Tempting the orphanage directors/ lawyer with money to make things happen. We seem to loose all our ethics as things turn hard or or don't go our way in certain matters. I have seen people take children home on medical/ travel visas and then hire a lawyer to keep them leaving the orphanage hung out to dry and accused of trafficking children. It's important to look at ourselves and understand that many problems are created by westerners who look down on third world people and governments. We feel we are more worthy than any poor person at raising children because we have money. As we hold agencies and orphanages accountable let's do the same to ourselves. As we go into this process, those of us who profess our faith must choose to glorify God regardless of the battle or the outcome. It's important that we don't compromise what is right and what we profess to believe!
Kelli - May 20th, 2013 at 9:20 PM
Thank you, Jen, for these posts. My husband and I are still recovering from our failed Russian adoption. I spent months researching, asking questions, calling agencies and doing my homework before choosing our agency and I was so thankful to have them as we labored through the arduous process and even more grateful for their support when Putin signed the law banning Americans from adopting and crushing my dream. They only worked in Russia so we are kind of starting from square 1 and even though its been almost 6 months since the ban went into effect we haven't been able to move forward because I haven't been ready emotionally to start over. And yet my throat burns, my chest tightens and some days I feel like I can't breathe when I think of the children still waiting, still needing. I feel so overwhelmed by it all that I almost can't see straight. I look forward to reading part 3 as I'm at this raw place emotionally where I'm waiting and ready to act as God calls. Though my heart yearns to bring a child home, more than that I long to live His Mercy toward the fatherless, even if that means I never raise the child myself. I don't know what He wants from us, but I am ready and hopeful that He will reveal it to us soon because I don't know how much longer I can operate in this fog of grief. Your words are encouraging and I am grateful for them.
Deb - May 20th, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Hmm. Still processing the comment on Independent adoptions. I have two children who came to me without an agency in either adoption. I understand the risks, but for me, a huge part of the problem with IA is the MONEY that flows around e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. If you remove the money making aspects, a LOT of the corruption is decreased. Put another way, if the only people I am paying to accomplish an adoption are (1) a private investigator to ensure full and complete background examination and (2) an attorney for reasonable fees, {did I mention REASONABLE fees?} I think the risk of the money-motivated-corruption decrease. (Note I didn't say disappear) Agencies themselves are making big bucks. Were it not the case, you might wonder why it is someone could pay $40,000 to adopt one child from Ethiopia when I brought my daughter home from Uganda for less than $10,000, which included travel and in-country stay/expenses of six weeks for my son and me. I think it's just food for thought. IMHO, agencies don't solve the issues. In many cases, they cause them.
Lisa Stucky - May 20th, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Jen - Thanks so much for being willing to write on this topic. Not enough is said about it.
Would love to have you come speak to the ladies at one of our Passion for Orphans retreats sometime ... www.passionfororphans.org ... you would be a joy to have there!
Jenny - May 21st, 2013 at 5:44 AM
We adopted an infant girl via AWAA and brought her home in July of 2011. We were with you at the transition home, rode in crazy Ethiopian traffic together, and I believe left for home the same day you did with your beautiful daughter. When we traveled to Ethiopia for our court date, we also took aother plane to our child's birth city in Ethiopia and hired a guide. We visited the city, learned, and took photos. We needed to do this for our daughter so that she knows as much of her story as possible. We also met and spoke with her surviving birth parent. It was heart wrenching and I cried with a terrible ache afterwards. I believe our adoption was on the level, or at least I feel we did our due diligence to try and find out. However, when we returned to the hotel that night and cried together, we also realized that adopting our daughter was not doing what truly needed to be done. What needs to be done is something to break the cycle of parents reliquishing thier children for adoption. We vowed that night that we would find an organization to help us do that and support that organization in our daughter's behalf. When our daughter says to us, "Mama and Daddy, you adopted me, but WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT THE PROBLEM?" We need to have an answer. Thanks to our friends the Davids over at One Child Campaign, we got linked up with Embracing Hope Ethiopia. These folks run a day care and ktichen in Addis. We sponsor a mom and child each month so that mom can go to work or school while the little guy is safe at day care. They have 2 good meals a day. This is a start. Mom is earning a wage and/or going to school and becoming independent. The goal is to break the cycle. A small step forward.
My husband and I also think that every adoption agency in Ethiopia should run a program like this. For each transition home it runs it should also run something like this. Each adoptive family should help support this facility either by paying an additional fee at the time of adoption or by actually being linked up w ith a specific family like we are. If adoption agencies can staff and run a transition home they can surely do this as well.
One more thing. When we returned home to the guest house after our trip to our child's birth city and our time with her birth parent and we opened our hearts to our fellow adoptive families around the dinner table, one family leaned in and said, "Oh. Well OUR son is a TRUE orphan. A DOUBLE orphan, so we feel better about that." Cue scratching record sound, crashing car sound, TNT explosion sound. Be careful in all of this adoptive families and friends. We need one another.

Meghan - May 21st, 2013 at 9:05 AM
I am curious as to your opinion on adoption through the state and the process of reunification. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the process and if not, no worries. We are currently in the process of fostering to adopt and I am struggling quite a bit with some of the things that are in place and how it affects children.
I respect you and your thoughts on adoption and was just curious to any thoughts.

Anna - May 21st, 2013 at 1:22 PM
Some more good stuff on the topic from John Piper: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/christian-adoption-disavowals-and-affirmations
Avey - May 21st, 2013 at 4:08 PM
Jen, you are amazing. My husband and I have been considering international adoption but lately I've been really feeling like we should wait (10 years or so for the sake of the birth order), and adopt an older sibling group rather than a baby. Your 'Part 1' post really confirmed that for me. This post is also awesome, and I'm REALLY excited to read about part 3 - where we can be involved now. Thank you so much for your brave words.
Kodi - May 21st, 2013 at 5:40 PM
Older child hosting program! Wonderful ministry!
Check it out!

China, Latvia and Ukraine!


Mark - May 21st, 2013 at 6:11 PM
I have to comment on this--New Horizons is not working solely with orphans from China. They are signing up children from families who love them and are working with an orphanage director who has caused an enormous amount of pain and heartache to numerous families who adopted older kids from Luoyang only to find out they were not orphans and only came here for school. New Horizons is aware that they are working with very same director who has destroyed our families. The consequences of the corruption of this orphanage director is beyond excusable, yet New Horizons thinks he's fine to work with. If they truly want to make a difference they should consider the fee it costs to host one of those kids and use it help the poverty stricken family to improve their life and educate their child IN China instead of selling families on the idea that America will solve everything.
I cannot speak on Latvia and Ukraine, I have no idea. Nor do I know that ALL the "host" kids with New Horizons are not true orphans, but I DO know that their first program from China was put together by one very corrupt orphanage official. Just ask them. They know.
UgandaMama13 - May 21st, 2013 at 6:52 PM
ACCOUNTABILITY....I will give you accountability...living 8 years in our children's home country, under the supervision of a probation officer...with a completely independent inter-country adoption...Please be careful of making "blanket" statements concerning independent adoption..."A man will seem right when he airs his opinion, until someone else comes along to challenge him."
Jen Hatmaker - May 21st, 2013 at 8:15 PM
What a wonderful scenario for you and your children. Unfortunately, the percentage of independent adopters who will live in their children's birth countries long term is infinitesimal. Your example is a wonderful exception. I cannot obviously speak to every single case; I am discussing this from a wide lens with what comprises the majority, not the rare exception.
KJ - May 21st, 2013 at 6:53 PM
I completely agree with what you've written, however, as someone who's adopted from China (an infant and a teenager), I can say that even though the country is seen as one of the "most restrictive" as far as safety from corruption and taking kids from their families, etc. that is simply not necessarily the case. I have 2 friends who adopted TEENS who both have biological families in China. Both biological families were basically told (as far as the adoptive families can tell) that their child was coming to the US for what was basically an exchange student-type program and they would come back to China after they completed school. The agency (well known in the US and China) was approached about the situation and (it seems) buried it. China was approached about it, and moved the director to another orphanage (and mostly likely is doing the same thing--or something similar--there). The adoptive families are struggling, the kids are really struggling on where their loyalties should lie...their ages were changed (made younger to be eligible for adoption), and they are lost. Heartbreaking situation all around. Another friend who adopted an older child from China has a similar experience in that her daughter has accepted her foster family in China as her "real" family and she refuses to let her adoptive family in her heart...she wants to go back to China when she completes high school and never plans on coming back. Granted that may change in 4 years when she graduates...but that's how she feels right now (2 yrs after being home).

Older child adoption is not for the faint of heart and there are very few resources available for those of us who walk this path. Most agencies leave us once we get home--as they move on to the next family who will bring in the money to pay the bills. Its rough. And if you live in an area where resources are few, its difficult to keep your head above water. Its a calling, but not one that should be taking lightly. And you should know that even when you believe you are adopting an older child because they don't have a family to love them and you may be their only hope, that may (or may not) be true. You have to walk by faith that its the path you are called to walk, and walk it boldly gripping God's hand because without Him we would never survive.
Kodi - May 21st, 2013 at 10:03 PM
Would you be willing to email me privately? [email protected] Thank you
Leslie - May 21st, 2013 at 7:58 PM
Yes the comments above about older children from Luoyang are absolutely true. I suspect the comment below it involves children from the same SWI in Luoyang, but I can't know that. It just sound very similar to the Luoyang situation.

More than that, we were invited (and attended) a fundraising effort for an American single in China (Luoyang) who was working in this SWI. He is one of the ones who brought it all to light once he realized the truth. He had a blog, but guess what? It was shut down, he is no longer able to work in China last I heard and there is more. A very well-known org. who works in China but also across the board in orphan care and adoption assistance was involved from the beginning in this Luoyang mission. Now what did they know when? I don't know. The families here in our town defend them to the nth degree. I personally am not involved in the org. anymore after some other things I know about them, but will not share here. My point is even those orgs you think are doing it all right can be involved in unethical situations, either unknowingly or knowingly (at some point).

As for agencies, I know some things I was told by an in-country person in China. For her sake, I will never share it publicly but she told me things and my biggest regret is not asking her what she wanted me to do with the info. It involves corruption on the sending country's part, which doesn't surprise me in the least. I better stop, but my point is that I think Jen has just stepped on the SURFACE here.

We saw some undercurrents on our first trip to China b/c of our daughter's unusual situation (in the hospital dying on our planned meeting day, which we were not made aware of until she didn't show up with her caregivers). Then we had a fight on our hands, that at first our agency handled VERY POORLY. To this day, I have ZERO respect for one particular employee there. I will never work with her. Ever. But all that said, they did come together and help us get our daughter out. Now, for anyone who wants to argue that we should have worked for her to stay in country, we had 2 choices from Sept. 16, 2008 when we met her in that hospital: 1). leave our daughter in a dirty Chinese hospital to die or 2). fight at all costs to get her out. And fight we did. She is now healthy and doing well, though she holds deep scars from the losses in her life. Well,
Kodi - May 22nd, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Would you be willing to email me privately? [email protected] Thank you
Kodi - May 21st, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Would you be willing to email me privately? [email protected] Thank you
Bob - May 22nd, 2013 at 5:43 AM
Jen - you mentioned awaa contacted you and you shared multiple emails back and forth with them. I applaud you and awaa for bringing into the light some ugly truths and untruths in hopes that we can all make more informed decisions in how to be God's hands and feet specifically in the area of orphan care. My question is, did any other agencies reach out to you? We did lots of research before choosing an agency, using an independent organization that objectively reviews adoption agencies and awaa was the one we chose (18 months ago). a couple above replies were upset that you mentioned awaa. Although awaa is not perfect and I have additional questions for awaa, I am confident that any errors that have occurred within awaa are anecdotal and not a systematic culture unethical practices as another post alluded too. we Press on, keeping out eyes fixed on Jesus...
Ben - May 22nd, 2013 at 7:01 AM
This was a great post. I wish this had all been in the first post. :-) I think much of the angst from the first post is that is seemed like you were saying that if birth parents were still alive, then adoption shouldn't be pursued. Rather one should desire only that the child be with the birth parents. But the reality of a sinful world is that some birth parents just won't or don't need to be parenting children. I also felt from the first post like you were saying we should take money from adoptions and give to empower birth parents. I think one poster pointed out that in 2011 there were only about 11,000 international adoptions from America. This hardly is meeting the demand for true orphans. So I submit rather than encouraging those who are adopting to put that money instead for other means of orphan care to engage those doing nothing or encourage those who adopt to also be involved in other orphan care ministries. Most of the people I know who adopt are already doing other orphan care ministry. It's not adoption or something else.... it's adoption plus everything else. I'm still struggling with the adoption is plan B thing. That's seems to be a slippery slope. I think you could say everyone is in a plan B since God intends that we be in fellowship with Him but sin prevents that. I just wouldn't want adopted kids to feel as if God let them down wheras he didn't those with biological parents. I think this is where we all need the Gospel to bear on this issue. I hope you didn't find my posts in part 1 offensive. I was in no way condoning immoral practices as a means to an end. I just believe the Gospel holds the highest value and when this is one's perspective other ideals (even our American ideals) tend to become lesser.
Shannon Hazleton - May 23rd, 2013 at 2:05 PM
This is the kind of thing that was never talked about in adoption world when we were adopting almost two years ago. Excellent series, and I'm sharing. Wonderful work, as always, Jen. Thankyou!
Candice - May 23rd, 2013 at 2:50 PM
Can you talk about open adoptions within the US at some point? I have a relative who has two children thru open adoption. Her husband is disabled and they couldn't have kids on their own.
Jennifer - May 23rd, 2013 at 9:30 PM
When a family adopts from another country, it is almost inevitable that a piece of their hearts will remain in their child's country of origin. I truly believe that God opened our eyes to adoption not only so that our children would have a family, but also so that we would raise awareness and become involved in supporting long term solutions for children and families who are on the brink of collapse. I know of very few adoptive parents who don't continue to be involved in sponsorship, family preservation, etc. after returning home with their adopted children. We get it in a way that others may not and seeing the need firsthand is a big part of that. I look forward to your next post, but know that you are probably going to be preaching to the choir.
Missy - May 24th, 2013 at 5:30 AM
"Are other adoptive families with concerns are painted as lunatics or troublemakers?"

This is my story! The worst part of this is that when my agency told the world that I was a dangerous, misinformed ringleader (because I filed a complaint against them for lack of orphan verification, bullying, threats of suit, threats from the agency to force me to undergo a mental eval because I asked questions about my incorrect paperwork, cutting me off from the agency yahoo group and then from my own case worker AND the entire agency mid-process, the list goes on...) the Christian sisters I had at that agency shook their heads and said, "Yes, yes, lunatic", and happily accepted their no-wait referrals of infant babies anyways, de-friended me, and wrote me nasty emails about God not needing any help to reveal corruption, because He can do it Himself. Don't be that girl, Sisters! I love that we can all get behind Jen and her articles, but I am challenging all of you to get behind this issue in the HARD ways, which means actually asking these questions of yourself and of your agency.

How long between abandonment and referral?
Can I SEE the orphan verification?
Can I SEE the ads?
Will you support my hiring a third-party investigator who may want to double check these facts before we stand before a judge?
Will you put that in writing, including a clause that says you will not bully, threaten, or arrest my investigator while in country?
Why is this large envelope of cash ("new, fresh bills, please") unrecieptable?
Why did you opt out of Hague this year? Were there any ongoing COA investigations when you made this choice? (Do not let ANY AGENCY tell you that they are forgoing Hague accreditation this year to pass on savings to the care of the children or to you as an adoptive family...HOGWASH, International Adoption Guides!!!!!)
How many substantiated complaints have you had with COA, and how did you resolve those issues?
Do you have a "no-retaliation" clause in your contract for families who complain?
How are you providing for reunification in _____?
How much of your budget goes towards that effort?

After you brush aside your fears and speak with 10 families who are happy, seek out a few families that were not. Contact them. Hear their stories. Ask yourself if you can handle what they tell you if it happens to YOU, or if you feel you are uncovering a pattern of behavior. If you hear one ounce of bullying or retaliation, move on to the next agency on your list, because while accidents can happen in any agency, bullying is no accident.

Ask YOURSELF what God has asked us to do here. He has asked us to "defend the cause".

THAT starts on the day you choose your agency. All this evangelical-adoption bashing is because we are FUNDING the reproach. I know we can't avoid reproach all together in adoption, but let's stop swimming in it. Keep adopting, but for reals, let's raise our standards a little here.

Jen Hatmaker - May 24th, 2013 at 7:33 AM
Great comment, Missy. Thank you for these good questions. I am so sorry for your experience, but so grateful you are using it to help those after you. Once the adoption community knows what to look for, we will emerge as a stronger, safer tribe, truly "defending the cause."
Missy - May 24th, 2013 at 7:56 AM
So true, Jen. My dream is that one day we as Christians develop a set of standards which will force agencies to make a choice: They either rise to our call for better practices, or they go out of business, because we won't use them. While we all wonder which senator to write or which reform law to support, we forget that we have the power to slow all these shenanigans with our agency selection and what we demand of them in order to gain our "business". We have to demand reunification support budgets and the best practices possible and ignore wait times. We have to demand better so that they will DO better. This is what I would like to see discussed and highlighted at the Big Conferences, and I am willing to be a part of any efforts to educate and inform parents.
Jen - July 30th, 2013 at 12:00 AM
It would be great if there was a way to share this information more broadly so that each family didn't have to do the legwork all over again. All of this is overwhelming enough to scare away some PAPs. We need a little encouragement and guidance to go along with the horror stories and guilt trips.
Darby - May 24th, 2013 at 10:50 AM
What if. What if the big adoption dream shifted from adopting a child (to bring home to our culture, to our biases, to our wealth) to a dream of adopting a family? What if instead of being a forever family here in the West, we preserved forever families that _already exist_? What if our "happily ever after" came in the form of providing the necessary support so that a Cambodian family could live happily ever after? It's not as romantic, is it?

I speak as a person who has never adopted, but who has had the indescribable joy of reuniting a Ugandan street kid with his biological mother. The excitement was immense and tangible, and it brought home to me how our loving first family can never be replaced. This boy looked exactly like his older brother, he had smaller cousins whose eyes and smiles adored him, his mother sent for the finest snacks she could afford (prodigal son style). I still get chills as I write about it.

What if I had said, oh here's this street boy and clearly no one cares about him? What if I used his family's need and loss to "build my family"? What if I raised lots of money so that I could care for him according to my standards? What if I justified my decisions by saying that at least I will give him a better life than he has on the streets? What if I spent my days and energy to hack my way through government forms and officials to adopt _rather than_ spending days and energy to find out his story, find out where his mom was, why he was separated from her, and work with the social worker to make a plan to take him home? What if?

Take this child out of the country and you take away this chance of being reunited. And behind this boy were many other children asking to be reunited with their families. Many other children. Adoption, though at times a wonderful thing, _always_ comes because of a great loss, because of a tragedy or a breakdown of justice or a lack of support to those who need it MOST. Why aren't we looking at the bigger picture? Why aren't we spending just as much time and effort and money to cure the sickness as we are spending to cure the symptoms?

I am not saying international adoption should never take place, but we seem to rely on it way too heavily to accomplish things it never will accomplish. There are so _many_ other options to consider before we wisk a child out of his home, out of his country, out of his language, out of his culture.

Please, let's dream bigger dreams. Let's broaden our vision and realize that our demand and willingness to pay for international "orphans" is actually creating these opportunities and this market for child trafficking.

I have sat beside far too many CPS kids here in Texas while they wrote their Christmas letters to Santa asking for a mom and dad. It is heartbreaking. I don't understand how this clamoring for international children can exist while there is still even one child here in our own backyard waiting for their "forever family." They, too, are languishing away, being shuffled from place to place and asking, "Who will love me? Who?"
Katie Did - July 5th, 2013 at 1:08 AM
As a parent adopting from CPS, we get a version of the attack that you level at IA parents. Instead of being asked to cure world poverty, we are asked to cure pedophilia and drug addiction. I wish that communities of people who care about children could build each other up instead of tear each other down. We aren't helping anyone when turn on each other.
Missy - May 24th, 2013 at 2:26 PM
A little wisdom from Dan Cruver running parallel to Jen's...don't miss this series!!!!

Part One: http://www.togetherforadoption.org/?p=16613
Part Two: http://www.togetherforadoption.org/?p=16612
Jennifer - May 26th, 2013 at 7:56 AM
This is an important conversation. Thank you for initiating the dialog, Jen. I don't follow your blog, so I apologize in advance if I've overlooked important details. I am an adoptive parent who stumbled upon your posts and agree with much of what you said in part 1 & 2. You were on the verge of influencing a shift in how Christians in the US approach aiding orphans/international adoption and something important was lost in the conversation: encouraging us to come together and use our resources to keep vulnerable families intact. As one who adopted an infant, I think it's important for you to know I felt shamed reading your first post. Even as I type this I feel a tug toward defending how my family ended up with our young child. I trust that wasn't your intention and I wish I could communicate my feelings to you privately, but could not find an email address. I think it's important to mention this because had you said something along the lines of, "Wow, something I didn't expect to feel after my adoption was a sense of guilt that I had not done enough prior to adopting to keep vulnerable families together. Here's what I'm going to do about it..." Had I read that, I would have felt affirmed that I am not alone. Plus I would have been inspired (probably along with hundreds of others) to be part of the solution going forward. Please consider using your platform, network, connections and post 3 to tell us how to get involved with reputable organizations who are helping families in vulnerable situations stay together. If birth parents have more options, we can feel greater confidence that we're involved in ethical adoptions. Thank you for using your blog to make a difference.
Jenny Martin - May 26th, 2013 at 9:23 AM
I just wanted to clarify the following statement, "There are about 18 million orphans who have lost both parents (%u201Cdouble orphaned%u201D) and are living in orphanages or on the streets." While the distinction between single and double orphans is essential, being a %u201Cdouble orphan%u201D does not mean a child is in an orphanage or on the street. In reality, most children whether orphaned or vulnerable continue to be cared for by family or next of kin. UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 8 million children living in orphanages and that 80% of these children have surviving parents (%u201Csingle orphans%u201D or not orphaned at all). Thus orphanages for the most part house vulnerable children from vulnerable families (orphanhood being one vulnerability).
Andy - May 29th, 2013 at 1:54 PM
Jen -

I've just posted a video after nearly a year in development here in Cambodia. It's at http://unitingforchildren.org -- I hope you'll have a look and perhaps help us share it. There's also an original cartoon strip by a Cambodian artist. We're looking at orphanages and family preservation, but all these issues are closely related. Thanks for lifting up your voice to the people you're connecting with.
Andy - May 29th, 2013 at 2:04 PM
If you contact me, I'd also like to exchange with you about an article or guest post or some type of exchange. There's no contact link, so I'm leaving this comment, so feel free to erase it. Thanks.
David - May 29th, 2013 at 5:25 PM
THIS is fantastic information. I just wish that you had posted parts 1 & 2 together. Much more balanced. I don't think part 1 came off as anti-adoption, however my concern was that it had great potential to drive PAP's away from adoption as well as provide fuel for opponents of international adoption. Presenting those valid concerns in such an emotionally charged environment is only beneficial when valid alternative solutions are also presented... so having to wait for that in part 2 was a bit sour... yet satisfying once it arrived. Thanks for doing your research here, and for encouraging readers to diligently pursue further information.
the lovely one - May 30th, 2013 at 10:14 PM
We adopted our son from the foster care system. He was a safe surrender, so we brought him home when he was 14 days old. My husband originally wanted an older child, at least 7 or 8. I agree that it's harder to find homes for those children, but I was too scared. Those poor children have already been through so much, and I didn't think I could handle it.

I thought all three of your parts brought up valid points. I've never been a huge proponent of international adoption, reasoning that there's children right here that need homes. But I whole heartedly believe in helping them, whether inside or outside of adoption! Great information!
Julie - May 31st, 2013 at 2:58 PM
Thank you for writing this. We adopted a young child from Ukraine last year who turned out to have living relatives who still wanted him -- in a system that believes that it can take care of your children better than you can -- but then abuses them in many ways. I am completely unconvinced that our child's relatives could not have taken care of our child But of course, this is not presented to you that way. You are a cog in this process who is brought along and it's not until later that you realize some of this -- that the money you spent and were told was just part of the adoption expenses helped grease the wheels to make the outcome go your way -- even if you didn't know it at the time. My child was being put up for adoption regardless of whether I was there. But his relatives are decent people. No one helped them to keep the family together. They yearn for my child and my child yearns for them. That's not to say my child won't have a very good life here -- he will But international adoption is VERY TOUGH on a child.
People say I saved a child. I set out to do this for selfish reasons -- I wanted a child and I wanted to be a parent. Sure, I'm helping my child in lots of ways -- mostly giving love and repairing his heart that he says was broken in half by the orphanage. But even an older child adoption in a country not known for selling kids has it's problems. I am SURE there are kids who have no one, but there are plenty of social orphans as well.
No one wants to hear my guilt over this situation -- as Americans we think we are somehow entitled -- even to others' children. I do what I can to provide these relatives with some solace that our child is doing well etc. There's no good answer. Thanks for listening
Tara - June 2nd, 2013 at 3:23 PM
I got bogged down trying to read every comment, so forgive me if this has been addressed. I love this series and have learned a lot! I agree with Leah (up thread) that Serbia is an excellent choice for an ethical adoption as they have recently undergone a thorough "house cleaning" of their adoption system.

"So if our motivation includes mitigating the orphan crisis, then we need more parents willing to adopt older kids, sick kids, and sibling groups, including here and abroad."

I would include kids with special needs in this group! I'm assuming you weren't referring to those with sn when you said, "sick kids." Our son has Down syndrome, but I assure you, he is not sick! :) Many, many (most?) institutionalized orphans have special needs. For some, that is the reason they were abandoned and for others, the special needs came because they were institutionalized.

Often, kids with (what we may consider) "minor" special needs are available for those who may feel unqualified to deal with something else. I can tell you that all kids are a blessing, whether they have special needs or not. (As a mom of 8, I can also tell you that ALL kids have "special needs" at some point in their lives...even if it's just raging hormones of a typical teen. ;)
Allison - June 3rd, 2013 at 10:52 AM
I find it interesting to note that one of the things you DON'T mention, and one that is very important in the adoption community, is whether or not the agency discriminates against prospective adoptive parents. As a Christian, this probably never entered your mind, since most adoption agencies will ONLY place children with Christian families. Does this bother you? Frankly, if you are talking about ethics, it should. As an atheist, one who is highly qualified and committed to adopting, this is the biggest thing MY community has to worry about. You recommend against private adoption, and while I agree with you in a theoretical sense, you have completely ignored WHY there is a need for private adoption - it's because of religious DISCRIMINATION in most adoptive agencies. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself WHY just about every adoptive organization is religiously affiliated? Have you ever questioned if that is perhaps the PROBLEM with corruption, instead of the solution? I have. Having worked overseas extensively, and having lots of experience with "Christian orphanages", I can tell you that THAT is where the problem lies. I welcome the fact that you want to have legal and ethical adoptions, but you are pretty much missing the problem - in favor of a band-aid solution.
Leah - June 26th, 2013 at 12:44 PM
YES! Thank you! As a fellow atheist and someone who hopes to adopt children with special needs (you know, the *real* orphans who Christians routinely pass over in favor for cute laundered babies?) I am so frustrated by Jen's refusal to acknowledge that by speaking only for Christian families and Christian adoption agencies, she is complicit in corruption. What rank and appalling hypocrisy.
Sharon Fenton - June 7th, 2013 at 10:23 AM
Darby I think I love you. I am a mother of loss to adoption. We are thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of mothers who have lost their children to adoption because we were young and poor. With just a little support, a little, even a kind word, we would have avoided our living death. It happens in the western world as well. Agencies coerce young women to relinquish through psychological warfare. Instead of empowering young women to parent, they/we are told we are not good enough. Please check out our Mothers Of Loss page on FB and the Musings of the Lame amongst others. Adoption should be about finding homes for orphans. Not babies for adoptive parents.
Amy - June 11th, 2013 at 1:25 AM
Jen, I know I'm entering this conversation kind of late in the game, but I can't shake free of some of my thoughts, and I'm hoping that you might still be up for engaging with them (even all the way down here at comment 132:). The trajectory of so much dialogue about adoption, among the circles I've moved in over the last 8 or so years, follow a similar path (at least as it's represented in many adoption blogs). The narrative arc looks something like this:
Adoption enters our radar (sometimes through Divine means, it seems) ----
Adoption process begins and orphan care (as in adoption as "God's heart for orphans") becomes the dominant note ----
As adoption picks up steam, the realities of living relatives and economic disparity blur the stark markers of what seemed so clearly right (not to say, righteous) ----
The conversation of adoption ethics begins sift into posts about our processes. -----
The kids come home (in our case, four-month-old triplets from Ethiopia who just, collectively, celebrated their fifth birthday) ----
Adoption ethics and preservation of first families becomes the dominant note in our discussions.

So here's my very emotionally costly objection.....adoptions are always preventable through shared resources (financial and emotional). When my sister agonized over this realization as her adoption from the DRC approached the signature stage, I didn't argue. If we specifically shared the money spent on adoption with family associated with the children we are adopting, then first family dissolution wouldn't be necessary. If we believed this wholeheartedly, we would all be on planes taking our kids "home" instead of on the internet typing about it. It's so, SO messy. The narrative arc of adoption exhausts me. I want to believe that I live what I believe, but I am parenting five children, three of whom grieve...in various ways....a place and a people that I could have (and could still) preserve for them were I to designate my resources differently. And I won't. I won't be hopping on a plane to fly them back to Ethiopia (except, hopefully, for a visit sometime in the next year or two). The post-homecoming shift in emphasis from orphan care through adoption to sifting adoptions through a tighter ethical sieve is frustrating to me simply because of it highlights a thoroughgoing flavor of hypocrisy -- if our whole hearts travelled along this path and we genuinely believed that these problems could be rectified with a face to face sharing of burdens, then we would fly our kids home and eliminate burdens that separated them from those who loved them enough to make the ultimate in difficult decisions. And, again, I won't do it. But I could. And that makes this conversation difficult to stomach because it makes me want to throw up.
When we first realized that "orphan" was a spectrum word and not a clear-cut, easily digested moniker for a child whose parents were both deceased, I spun headlong into the ethical tornado of international adoption (well before our own referral was assigned). My husband suggested this: money is not our gift (as evidenced by a loan that helped to finance our adoption and the way our generous friends carried us on their backs and bankbooks through that first year). Love and time are what we have to offer. We corralled the money in order to underwrite the thing we bring to the table, which is love. He argued that we could fly over and subsidize one family, but there would be, then, other children without families that would follow them. We, he said, needed to address the "starfish on the beach" problem in our way, for this moment, and in other ways in other moments. I really lean heavily on his insight in this area. Ethiopian adoption was rather young when we began our initial investigation in 2006 and our process in 2007...most of the red flags were still wrapped in ticker tape. But even though I believe that the hard decision to relinquish our three children was made in love and without coercion, I also know that my time and resources could have made that relinquishment unnecessary. And I offered up my broken best in this broken world. And I want to help my children visit Ethiopia, but I will never relinquish them back. I hope they can forgive me.
Darby - October 1st, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Wow, Amy, what unparalleled honesty. It makes my stomach churn, too. I'd like to be in touch with you more if possible. My email is [email protected] I'm based in the US and part of efforts in Uganda to get kids out of orphanages and back with their birth families. We are not anti-IA, but we do see it as a last resort and never a first option. We have also found that orphanages with any sort of IA program are extremely resistant to resettling kids with their birth families--because the $$$ isn't there. And if support existed at the birth family level, many of the orphanages in Uganda would be put out of business. So not only are some orphanages uninterested in resettlement, they are actively recruiting more children away from their families with promises (of education, housing, food) that may or may not be honored.

Hope to hear from you!
Kailyn - June 12th, 2013 at 10:49 AM
Thank you for this adoption series - one thing that was running through my brain while reading this is "what about the kids in the crappy systems?" If we avoid working with those institutions and only go for kids lucky enough to be placed in transparent institutions than we are leaving behind kids... but on further reflection, the only way to change things on a large scale is through our money. If we stop supporting institutions that are not transparent then they will eventually see the benefit of transparency. Through a collective and monetary turn, we will force global adoption agencies to work for the good the children and over time fewer children and their families will be abused. Thank you!
Amy - June 12th, 2013 at 2:36 PM
Hi, Jen,

I added a fairly lengthy comment here a few nights ago, and saw it posted as comment 132 the next day. When I opened the comments section to share my thoughts with my husband, my response here had been removed. I'm not sure what happened. If you have a minute, let me know if you had concerts with the content I posted. You are welcome to email me.

Amy - June 14th, 2013 at 2:56 PM
It's back! Thanks for hunting it up and reposting it. I'm looking forward to sharing it with my husband and hearing his thoughts! I'd still love to hear yours.

Leah - June 25th, 2013 at 8:01 PM
If an agency will only work with Christian parents, that agency is not ethical.

Mary Hoyt - June 28th, 2013 at 1:16 PM
I would love to connect with people working toward these goals in Kinshasa, DRC!!! [email protected] morethanenoughinhim.blogspot.com
Katie - July 4th, 2013 at 7:32 AM
Jen's argument's are way off base, and I address these point by point in my blog post, "Orphans Don't Apologies From Jen Hatmaker." Children Deserve

Meriam - October 18th, 2013 at 12:12 PM
I just have to share that I never saw where you addressed a local domestic option from a teenage birth mom that didn't want to parent but chose to give life to a child. Please let me know if somehow I missed this. What is your perspective here? As the parent of an adopted son walking out an open adoption with a very sweet loving teenage birth mother, all of these blog posts deeply saddened me. I think took adoptions backwards in terms of how our community embraces an adopted child and how that child wants to feel accepted and purposed in their life. I wish you would have painted in less broad strokes and been more clear that your goal was to disclose adoption ethics, not make blanket statements about the purpose of all adopted children. You do not know their circumstance. Do you want teenage mothers who are not ready to parent to feel guilt over a decision to do a placement? What is your purpose?
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