I’m in a questioning mode. Consistent readers of Cerulean Sanctum will probably ask when I’m not in a questioning mode, but that’s beside the point. 😉
This time, I’m not the one asking the hard question, Anthony Bradley is. His is one of those stunners that can’t be avoided, a sort of “now that you have heard, you have no excuse” truth.
Here’s the opening lines of “Orphans vs. American Dream“:
Why Does America Have Orphans If It Has Christian Churches?
America has nearly 115,000 orphaned kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. Some wonder how this is possible in a country with Christian families. Surely, there are 115,000 missional families in America, right? Missional families, for example, embrace the redemptive mission of God and practice “true religion” in their local communities (James 1:27). Missional Christians in America could eliminate the foster care system tomorrow if we would stop “shootin’ up” with the American Dream (heroin) in order to get high on a lame life lived for the sake of comfort and ease.
As with anything deep, read the whole thing.
We’ve thought about going this route ourselves. We’ve asked the same question.
But saying yes isn’t easy. The bureaucratic, politically-correct adoption system creates nightmarish roadblocks for anyone seeking to adopt. We know because we watched friends go through the emotionally devastating process of being rejected time and again in their attempts to adopt. Then they got involved in the foster care system, itself a bad dream, and received a child quickly, a child they later adopted.
Yes, we’ve made the system maddeningly hard to navigate, but when were Christians excused from bearing up under duress? Our Lord went to the cross. We just have to fill out countless forms, answer some sensitive questions, jump through political hoops, and pray big prayers before we can make a foster care orphan our own.
Christianity can’t become mere talk. Most of the world already views us as folks who talk big but can’t back up our message through our actions.
I think Anthony Bradley nails this one. Now what are we going to do about it?
25 thoughts on “Yet Another Good Question…”
A friend of mine has recently started a blog about their experiences with foster care. I’ll let her tell the story.
Thanks. I read through part of that blog. They’re lucky to be in Texas. Wards of the state who are adopted get their college paid for out of state funds. That’s a big load off many adoptive parents backs. My wife has a cousin who did this and I couldn’t believe how easy Texas made it for them.
Other states should copy Texas.
The state of Florida also has many benefits (college tuition, medicare, continuing child support, etc.) for those who adopt out of foster care.
Dan, is it possible to ask you something in private?
I sent you an e-mail.
My wife and I are in the final stages of getting licensed for foster/adoptive care in our county here.
In our final training class, our instructor made a comment in passing that just pierced my heart. It voices the same sentiment as this post. She said, “Years ago, the church took care of these kids. But the church doesn’t do that anymore, so we need this agency [Div. of Social Services].”
Ironically, almost every one of the couples in our class were Christians seeking to help children on the basis of our love for Christ.
Yes, there are hoops to jump through, but we are definitely willing to jump through them in order to reach the community around us in this way.
Thanks for posting on this, Dan. And if you do decide to go this route, know that you have brothers and sisters going through it with you. If I can be of any help or encouragement, let me know!
Yes, the Church used to do it for free, but then someone figured they could make money off orphans and nothing has been the same since.
A black friend of mine told me more than twenty years ago that some in the black community were pushing to stop whites from adopting black kids for fear the kids would not be raised with the proper African heritage. As a result, black kids went unadopted because somebody thought being politically correct was more important than the kids.
Now you’ve got the specter of diversity screwing with the system. Many agencies have placement quotas to meet that are excluding Christian parents so that kids can be placed in a wider variety of homes with different belief systems. But Christians still are the predominate faith expressing interest in adoption. That’s the kind of nuttiness you encounter that makes this so hard.
An adoption in the states can run more than $30,000. Even with the tax breaks, who has that kind of money laying around? We don’t.
I could not believe how much bureaucracy our friends had to go through to foster and eventually adopt their child. Just mind-numbing. And the crazy classes they had to attend. And the weird rules for dealing with certain situations that arise. I can answer the reason why more Christians don’t go this route: It’s a contorted zoo of a mess and pretty humiliating at times.
Someone needs to clean up the system.
Some friends of mine are going through the painful and expensive process of IVF. To tell you the truth, I am somewhat conflicted regarding thier requests for prayer. I prayed for God-given wisdom as they went through the decision making process, and now I pray for the health and safety of mother and unborn child. But I look at IVF, or any kind of medical assistance for getting pregnant, as akin to Sarah handing Abraham her maid in order to “assist” in the baby-making process: Socially acceptable, but basically a man-made shortcut for getting what I want.
When one adds the numbers of orphans waiting for adoption, and the obscenity of abortion, then the issue should become even more cut and dry. But it doesn’t, does it?
A study in Asia in the 90’s showed that the more industrialized a country becomes, the more the reason for having children becomes psychological, rather than economic. For instance, in Bangladesh, a child will have paid back to his parents any costs of birth and raising by the time he’s 6 years old, while in Singapore, a child is mostly desired for companionship.
What is a child in the US? Status? Decoration? A pet? Something on a list of things I have to do before the clock runs out? A challenge? A target?
Keep in mind that I ask this as someone who is not a parent, and really has no desire to be one.
Every public institution of aid and encouragement in our society, from hospitals to orphanages to welfare, was started at some point in time by the Church. Somewhere along the line, we have lost our way, and given over our true work for something more self-centered and non-wholistic. As Christians we literally have unlimited resources available to us to change the world, and in so doing, draw people to Christ through our love. What we seem to do be trying to do is to draw people to our church buildings by our similarity to the world.
When we lived in Silicon Valley every last one of the couples we had as friends was struggling to conceive. Most had tried IVF—more than once. At $10,000 a pop (back then), it was a pricey failure.
One couple did conceive that way and had twins. The rest never did.
We felt bad that we had no trouble at all. When we knew it was time, we got pregnant right away. Getting together with our friends became a downer because that issue always loomed. Why you and not us?
It’s a little death for people not to be able to have their own biological children. A long time ago, adoption was easy. But with it so out in the open today in our age of need-to-know, parents are afraid of birth parents tracking them down and suing to get their kid back or kids becoming obsessed with finding their birth parents. No one wants that. You read a couple stories about birth parents suing to get their child back—and winning—and what family wants to go through that kind of horrible pain? Better to try the IVF.
As to what we think in the US about children, I would say that we see it as a right. Unfortunately, that’s wrong—it’s a privilege. And too many parents aren’t worthy of that privilege.
As for all those institutions founded by Christians, I believe the money grab ruined most of them. Layers and layers of people thought they could make a few bucks along the process and now stuff is so costly it’s ruined for most people.
I agree – when we adopted our child from foster care, there were over 600 children currently in foster care in OUR COUNTY alone. More than half of the children who enter foster care can never be reunited with their families. So many are needed to adopt. It makes it very hard for me to understand IVF – especially multiple attempts and years of anguish some go through.
My parents adopted two girls from China over 8 years ago. There were many, many difficulties along the way. Adoption in not for the faint of heart! You must have a strong marriage and goals in mind when you welcome an adoptive child into your home. Now both girls have graduated from highschool and one has received an (almost) full-ride to a nice southern-ivy league college. The fairy tale isn’t over yet but the future looks brighter.
I think the difficulties put off many. I know that I keep striving to simplify our lives, but they just keep getting crazier and crazier. The thought of adding to that…well, that’s my stumbling block.
Most people will adopt because they are unable physically to have children biologically, so they are forced to go the route of adoption if they want children. Few, very few, decide to adopt for the purpose of redemption, mission, or out of love for orphans. I agree that we have lost our way on this issue.
My wife and I adopted our son Tylar out of foster care about a year ago. I wouldn’t say my motivations were very missional, but after going through the long process my view towards orphans has been readically altered for the good. We are looking to adopt more children in the near future. Also looking at the epidemic of abortion I think it is time that we stop picketing and writing letters and start funding pro-life women’s clinics and Christian adoption agencies. And then go even further and ask God if he would want us to adopt, not because of infertility, but because of obedience and love.
The people I know who adopted are a pretty even mix of the incapable of having biological children and the redemptive aspect. Maybe it’s different where I live.
Good for you for going the difficult route and adopting a child out of foster care!
The reasons for getting an abortion won’t be solved by offering more opportunities for adoption. That route’s been open for decades, but our society changed. There’s no stigma to abortion, no stigma to having a child “illegitimately.” In fact, do we use that latter term anymore?
No, we don’t. That’s why we’re not going to substantially increase the number of women giving up their children for adoption. It’s why most people are going out of the US to find kids to adopt.
You are right on this, I believe. Most children available through adoption in foster care are there because the rights of the parents were involuntarily terminated, not because they gave their child up for adoption (though it does happen).
We don’t use the term “illegitimate” anymore because it’s a terrible label to apply to a child. But broadening access and information about adoption *will* help reduce the rate of abortions. Most women, for example, don’t know that many adoption agencies will do things like pay for all of your health care during the pregnancy, or that open adoptions are now possible. (Meaning all parties are aware of each other and stay in contact.) Mothers with open adoption available are more likely to take that option.
Wonderful, wonderful post.
May I add that since many of these foster kids have special needs, the red tape at the beginning may be the least of the cross-bearing? Oh, how those needs–extending beyond childhood–can disrupt our American Dreams and Messiah complexes! As you’ve stated so well, though, taking these children in is for their benefit, not ours. My parents adopted my four youngest siblings; although it considerably shortened my own youth, I’m grateful for the way it expanded my horizons.
Good for Texas–giving those kids a college education is a smart move on so many levels! Gov. Matt Blunt-R slashed funding for foster care and adoption training programs in Missouri two years ago (along with other programs that helped move people off state assistance). We are still shaking our heads.
We were foster parents for two years (we did “cradle care” for an adoption agency) and also tried to adopt a special needs child through the state. Amen and ditto to what others have shared about the abusurdity of the system (paperwork, cost, hurdles and more hurdles). Besides a strong marriage and committment to God, I’d add “a supportive church and family” to the list. Having others praying and even financially helping you is essential in what is often a long and unrewarding journey.
Though our attempts to adopt eventually failed – looking back now, I can see God’s sovereignty in the long hallway of closed doors – I wouldn’t trade the experience with the kids, the birthmoms, the social workers, the WIC office, the adoptive parents and with God for anything.
Thank you for your post and for highlighting Anthony Bradley’s post. I am the person your first commenter, Clay, spoke of. Thank you for visiting our blog. We are just getting started at detailing our journey…
There are so many aspects of foster-to-adoption that are difficult and trying. There are so many aspects of foster-to-adoption that are life-changing and fantastic. There are so many aspects of foster-to-adoption that are simply heart-breaking.
The question of ‘why don’t more Christians foster or adopt’ has as many answers as it does excuses. The bulk of these answers/excuses ultimately involve fear masquerading as something more benign. I know, I’ve lived it. We were fearful of a drug-exposed baby, but we expressed it as the self-effacing, “oh, people who do that are saints, we just couldn’t ever do that.” Yes, we were people of little faith.
And then, God took the reins. Our calloused hearts were stripped and the very thing we feared presented itself in the face of a beautiful abandoned baby girl. Since then, we’ve been involved with 4 different drug-exposed babies, the current one may be a permanent member of our family.
Special needs children, drug-exposed babies, difficult biological parents, overworked case workers and so on are the things we fear and the excuses we use. Only through the dissemination of accurate information can the truth set us free from our paralysis of fear. We hope to address several of these difficult topics over the next few weeks.
Oh… and Texas does give college education to certain foster children, not all. While this may sound wonderful, working within the Texas foster care system is still very challenging. And realistically, what percentage of these children will actually take advantage of the education… not to sound negative, just honest.
My husband and I completed the MAPP classes three years ago, hoping in the end to adopt an older child (we’re not spring chickens and felt we needed a child between 6 and 9, but no older, especially since we still have a daughter at home – she was thirteen at the time. The classes were excellent for our marriage, for our relationship with our daughter and for educating us on the whole foster care situation out there (and maybe those classes were the whole reason God put the possibility on our hearts). But in the end, there were too many obstacles, including so many of the adoptable boys being considered a danger to our young teen daughter, plus being prohibited from taking a foster child with us to travel out of state to visit our three grown children. When we discovered we were going to become grandparents, and considered possibly years dragging on before an adoption would be final and we’d be free to take a child with us to visit our grandchild(ren), we felt God had something else in mind. I’m still not sure exactly what His design was for the whole experience, but we certainly don’t regret taking each step, until we felt God saying we’d gone as far as He wanted us to. Our hearts were softened through the experience and each of us grew spiritually. We’ve considered that maybe God was preparing us for a future of taking in much older children – troubled teens – after our daughter is grown. Whatever it is, I think we’ll be more open to God’s leading in the future because of our obedience in taking those first steps, even though they didn’t lead where we thought they would. We met many wonderful, loving people in “the system” and I have a new respect for foster parents, social workers, and even a more compassionate understanding of parents who’ve given up the rights to raise their children.
My wife and I have been through the adoption process twice. Our first adoption was a sibling group of four about 13 years ago. Ten years ago we added a brother and sister to our mix.
There have been some really good times and some really challenging times. Much has been sacrificed along the way. The ones who probably paid the highest price are our biological children.
If you would like more of the specifics I would be happy to share via e-mail.
In Florida it cost less than a $1,000 to adopt a child from foster care. That is the only reason we were able to adopt. I would encourage you to check into that in Ohio.
my wife has a sister who was adopted, the in-laws worked with group homes in state-run facilities. my wife’s bro and sis just adopted. I was raised by an older family in our church as legal guardians since I was 14, so we will definitely be open to the idea, especially once our kids are older.
I wonder how many will dismiss that great question as naive?? it is a valid and pressing and painful question, but a good challenge disciples of Jesus.
My wife and I are the parents of two wonderful children by adoption. We couldn’t have biological children between us, and I would be lying to you if I told your our motives were completely unselfish. But I would be lying to you if I told you I think they have to be in order to be blessed by God.
Four couples at our church are keeping (or recently have kept) foster children in their homes while their custody or adoption or family situation goes through the legal system. They take a little money for it, sure – so I don’t know that you can classify their ministry as totally unselfish – but they are willing to love and cherish those babies and toddlers and children just like their own, and then give them up when they must. They give them up whether they agree with the court or not. They give them up just like our children’s biological mothers and fathers gave them up. They miss them.
One of those families has hosted more than twenty babies and toddlers over the last ten years. Hosted, changed diapers, fed in the middle of the night, cuddled, cooed, sang and read to, became family to.
Three of the families have cared for children of a race different from their own.
In Little Rock, Arkansas.
Sure. What valuable ministry for God isn’t, at least a little bit, its own reward?
You know this is a subject close to my heart. We have three adopted children. I won’t rehash what you already know about me, Dan. However, I have a few comments.
All the paperwork is a pain, but it has a purpose: adopted kids have special needs. They have all been rejected by a parent in once sense or another and at some point in their development this rejection becomes very real to them. Some get by relatively unscathed. Others develop severe behavioral problems that, left unchecked or unrecognized, can eventually cause them to have difficulty getting along in normal social situations. (I have one of each. The third has been with us for only a few weeks, but we think she falls somewhere in between.) The classes and training, if done well, can teach prospective parents how to recognize and address these problems.
It isn’t fair that I have to apply, be interviewed, be subjected to intense examination, and approved before I can rear a child when other women are having babies that they haven’t the vaguest notion how to care for. It stinks. But I have nothing to hide; and I think birth parents are more likely to place a child for adoption rather than rearing them in unsafe environments (or aborting them) if they recognize the scrutiny adoptive parents are subject to. My third child is an international adoption and I am required to have a social worker in my home at regular intervals for the next several years and I must allow the social worker access until our daughter turns 18. It is inconvenient. However, allowing this kind of access means that her native country will continue to allow the international adoptions of these children who would otherwise end up on the streets.
Many states do offer assistance to foster and adoptive families. Children fostered/adopted in Missouri are eligible for many benefits. They receive free medical care for the adoptees and financial assistance for their families. The assistance makes more parents available who otherwise would think they cannot afford to foster/adopt. Although we live in Missouri, none of our children are from here so we are not eligible for those benefits.
The rewards far outweigh the difficulties. Adopted kids have problems, but biological kids have problems, too. We sometimes bemoan the messes our oldest child gets into, wondering at her choices despite our best efforts to rear her in a stable Christian home. Then we look around at some good Christian families we know who have had similar problems with their biological children. I say this not to discourage your readers, but to encourage them to consider adoption. Surviving the teen years means we have a future filled with all the potential blessings of responsible, loving adult children (and someday grandchildren!).
The Bible plainly teaches us to care for widows and orphans. You and your readers are correct that the Church needs to be more involved in this area. And if we all work together like the Church is supposed to, we will all be there to support each other through child rearing in all its forms.