It’s Messy And It Hurts

My thinking on this subject has evolved and changed quite a bit over the years.    I used to be ignorant – blissfully ignorant.

But unfortunately, I’ve seen too much over the last 12 years.   Too many mistakes, too many well intentioned efforts gone wrong, too many times where families were hurt rather than helped, too many situations where children will bear scars for their entire life because of what happened.

What am I talking about?   Orphan care and the National Adoption Month celebrations.   I used to get excited about these and I used to be a strong advocate for doing events like this which raise awareness.

Not so much any more.

Am I still pro-adoption?   I absolutely am.    There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not grateful that God has seen fit to allow me to be the parent to all five of my children.  Becoming an adoptive parent has allowed me to get to know some incredibly awesome people.    It has stretched me, taught me, broken me, molded me and totally reshaped my priorities.

But this year, I have gotten to the point that I don’t like the Orphan Sunday celebrations any more – at least not the way most of them are done.    Probably one of the most common “orphan sunday” posts I’ve seen on Facebook has the statistics of how many children in the US are in foster homes waiting for adoptive families.    It then says something like, 

There are 101,000 children in foster care waiting for families.  There are over 300,000 churches in the United States.   If one out of every 3 churches would adopt a child from foster care, there would be no orphan crisis.”

This statement is true in a couple of ways and false in some other very important ways.

It’s true – if one family from 1 out of every three churches adopted from the foster care system, every single one of the children in foster care would have a permanent home.   That would be wonderful.

But this is not a true statement for a couple of reasons:

  • It would not end the orphan crisis.   Because today there are more children being put in foster care.    And tomorrow there are more children being put in the system.   So, a year from now, there won’t be zero orphans in foster care, there would be a totally new “batch of orphans.”
  • Churches don’t adopt children, families do.   From personal experience and from talking to many adoptive parents, I think that most people could describe the situation in these terms,  “There are people at my church who want to help but don’t know how.   Most people don’t want anything to do with us and some of them are outright hostile because we make them uncomfortable”     I know that they are saying “churches” because it’s a way to represent the problem – but let’s be honest, most churches don’t do well with helping raise adopted children who come with battle scars.   (See previous blog series on “Not Okay’”)

I could go on in greater detail on the messy sides of adoption (and later I will).   But let’s just that there is a growing feeling that the positive feeling about adoption is being overshadowed by an acknowledgement of the pain that comes with adoption:

Pain for the adopted child – for what they lost to get to this point, for the changes they have to adjust to, for the unanswered questions about the who, why, what of their past.

Pain for the birth parents – no matter what the situation, giving up or losing a child raises questions and causes pain.

Pain for the adoptive parents – while usually the least, the pain that adoptive parents go through is real also.   Changes to their parenting styles, constant struggles, helping a wounded child try to heal, losing friends and family who don’t understand, it all hurts.

And then there’s the system, I could write a book on that, and the way that it pits one part of the system against another and rather than working together  they continue to make life more challenging for everyone.

Adoption is messy.    It’s painful.   It is necessary.

But it’s not the complete answer on how to care for children who are struggling.   There’s more that can be done to help children, but it’s not as clean, not as clear cut but it reduces the number of orphans who need families.

Join me as we work on examining the options and alternatives.

But remember,  James 1:27 says,  “True Religion is to care for orphans and widows in their distress. “


“True religion is to adopt an orphan.”

Everyone can do something and everyone must do something.

But it’s not an adopt or else scenario…….


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