Tuesday, August 03, 2010


I've been thinking about this for a long time, going back and forth on whether or not to post about it. I don't want to step on toes, but I suppose it's impossible to have an opinion where everybody agrees with you.

I've noticed lately in the adoption community--particularly in the Christian adoption community--the word "ransom" is becoming very popular. I think the original intent was good, but I don't like where this word is going. The first time I read about the idea that adopted children were "ransomed" I thought it was an interesting way to look at things. The idea was that, by definition, an orphan is a child in bondage to their circumstances--living without the love of a family. When a family comes along to adopt that child, the family is paying a price (a ransom) in order for that child to enter the family. The original writing I read was not focused on a monetary "price," but rather the price of time and emotional hardship that an adoptive family "pays" in order to adopt.

As the months went on this word, "ransom" was being used more and more. The next time I saw its usage it was for a child in Eastern Europe who was soon to be committed to an insane asylum because of his special needs. There was a big internet effort to raise the money needed for his adoption, and it was put in terms of "raising his ransom." That sort of raised my eyebrows, but I could see how the term could apply. This child was going to be sent to a place where most children would die very quickly because of the horrible conditions. Through adoption, his life was literally being saved.

Now, several months later, "ransom" is everywhere. Families are regularly referring to their adoption fees as "ransom" for their child. "Help us ransom our daughter from (put country name here). Help us ransom her for Christ! Click the paypal button below!" This makes me cringe.

Here's the definition of ransom:

"To redeem from captivity, bondage, detention, etc., by paying a demanded price."

First, is the child you intend to adopt being held in captivity, bondage or detention? Obviously not, or the child wouldn't be available for adoption! This child is free to join a family! Most orphanages or foster care homes that care for children who will eventually be adopted are NOT the worst places out there. There are likely hundreds of other orphanages/foster homes in your intended country of adoption where the children are more like slaves in captivity. I think of men who kidnap children and make them act as if they are orphans, begging on the street, and taking the money back to their "master" each night. I think of foster homes who only take a foster child to act as a servant to their family. These are not the children that are free for adoption. Chances are, your child is in one of the best care situations available in their country of origin. Your child is not in captivity, bondage, or detention. [Christians can argue that a child is in "spiritual bondage," but that's not what I'm speaking of here.]

Second, are we as adoptive parents now referring to the fees incurred during adoption as a "demanded price?" Haven't we been fighting the stereotype that we "buy" our children for decades?! You do NOT buy a child when you adopt. If you have that attitude, please, please leave this community. When you adopt a child you are paying for legal fees, fees to keep the agency running, sending humanitarian aid, and (hopefully) funding projects that PRESERVE families from being split up in the first place. It shocks me that adoptive parents are associating the word "ransom" with adoption fees and travel expenses. You are not paying a "demanded price" in order to free your child. Your child is not for ransom. Your child is free to be adopted.

If you're my friend and happen to be using this word regularly in association with your adoption, please forgive me for hurting your feelings. That's not my intention. I think that sometimes we fall into the latest "fad" word without really giving it a lot of thought. Maybe you have given it a lot of thought and have a justification for calling adoption fees "ransom." Maybe you have a better argument for it than I have against it.

I'm posting about this so that maybe one person who would have used this term, will not use it. I think that using this term insults our children and their first countries--degrades their beginning stories into something horrible and nasty. They could have been very loved in the beginning of their lives, or well loved now while they are in interim care. I would never want any of my children to read how they were "ransomed" by mommy and daddy from their evil first country and deplorable first family through the dirty adoption system. It's just not true.


Jenny 8:55 PM  

Hmm, you must be reading the same blog (or blogs) that I am reading. It's bothered me, but I haven't exactly been able to come with the verbage as to why. Yes, exactly. We don't ransom our children.

Kind of along the same lines, I've had people say to me "well, who knows where they'd be/what would have happened to them if you didn't adopt them!" Here's what would have happened: someone else would have. Plain and simple.

Jamey... 9:00 PM  

I totally agree! Everytime I read that I throw up a little bit. Ugh.

Jen 9:03 PM  

THANK YOU! I could not have said it better.

I do think that it is that people have not thought it through. They heard the word used and started using it and it is becoming a new buzz word.

You really could not have written this post better.


Anonymous 10:28 PM  

Ransomed, rescued, saved...all those words need to be removed from the adoption community. We're creating families. We're not on a rescue mission.

Well written post. Thank you for speaking up.

Gina 11:14 PM  

I agree. Though I don't think the writers of anything I have personally read had a negative intent, this word didn't sit right with me either.

whenpigsfly 11:54 PM  

I appreciated your post, but must be out of "the loop" because I have not heard that term used. Its not one I would use either but more than likely the folks who are using it are trying to "update" adoption language. There are better terms. Thanks Anita!!

CarrieT 1:07 AM  

Well said and I totally agree!!

Along these lines there is a currently popular Christian book about adoption that makes a lot of good points about why Christians should support adoption and care for the orphans, which I totally agree with. But this author makes a big deal about the comparison between believers being adopted into the family of Christ and how this compares to people adopting children. This has some usefulness as an analogy BUT it totally breaks down if you start comparing a believer's former sinful life to our children's former life in their birth culture. Their birth culture was not evil or sinful any more than our American culture is!! I really cringe when I read people like this author carry this analogy too far!! Our kids should be proud of their birthland and we should teach them as much about it as we can. And their birth family is not synonymous with a "sinful past!!"

Carrie - mom to 4 from Korea

lillyboo 5:59 AM  

Wow, I hadn't heard that term but agree that it isn't appropriate to use. It is insulting to the child's birth country as well as the people and orphanage that are most likely doing their best with very little to take care of that child. I am sure my jaw would drop if somebody used the term in front of me.
Some of our family/friends spoke of how expensive international adoption could be in a suspicious way, like they thought we were being ripped off. I explained that the costs are fees to many different agencies and the home country. I imagine the money being used to help other children in country. I am not unhappy to give this money because I believe a good part of it is being used in a very productive way (and the other part is simply going to people for doing their jobs).
Ransom it is not! Yuck!

tdd 6:27 AM  

I have to admit ransom in the case of adoption does seem really bad/odd word to use. I've always looked at the fees to adopt the same as the fees you pay for birthing a biological child. I wouldn't think anyone would suggest a doctor's fee to deliver a biological child as ransom.

His Hands His Feet Today 8:12 AM  

We use this term - but think of it in a spiritual way. God sent Christ as a ransom for US. Without Jesus, our future would not be what it is. Adoption fees are very much "holding" our children in their situations. You can't adopt without paying them.

Matt 20: 28 "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Hebrews 9:15 "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."

1 Tim 2:6 "who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

Our newest daughter in particular was indeed very much rescued from satan's snare. And by us adopting her, her entire family is now being welcomed into the kingdom of God (and discipled for the first time today!!!).

My thoughts :)

Heather A. 10:02 AM  

Thanks for putting that out there. The use of that term when referring to adoption makes me sick to my stomach and it makes me questioin what kind of people these children are going to be living with. Living in an adoptive family is hard enough without the use of such degrading terminology.

A. Gillispie 12:08 PM  

Thanks for all of the comments. I don't at all feel that people who use this word with adoption have bad intentions. I just wanted to put it out there how I feel when I read that word with adoption, in case it causes anybody to have second thoughts about using it. I'm glad to see I'm not alone in my feelings. Really didn't know if I would be or not!

CarrieT, thanks for your comment. I definitely seem, and speak of, the comparison between Christ adopting us and adoptive families adopting children. I'm sure I've used the analogy on this blog several times. I think it's a strong one. I've never thought of it from your point of view.

K, I didn't realized you used this terminology. I checked out your blog today and see that you have thanked everybody for helping to pay for Selah's adoption, and then said "Ransomed for Christ!" You said you use this word in the spritual sense, but you use the word directly after talking about fees. Sorry, that just makes me cringe a bit. But to each his own...


Dawn 3:41 PM  

I think I will be posting again on this soon, I certainly, as an adoptee, did not like Adoptive parents using the word "saved" when referring to their children. As an adopted child, I do not want to be a Christian project, I want to be my parents child! But in reality most children are saved from harsh futures by being adopted into families and those who work in different countries orphanages around the world know this best...
But when you are talking about special needs children who will age out and be moved to mental institutions where they will suffer and die. Ransom fits... Not all orphanages are nice places...MY opinion, very few. When adoptions are now about 25 to 35 thousand and up? Fees become ransoms...

Michelle 8:17 PM  

I hadn't heard the term ransom before...interesting. I always thought of all of my adoptions as blessings to me and have never thought about the fees (no matter how high) as anything oppressive or criminally demanded of me. The money has just been provided in some way or another at just the right time and in just the right amount.
That being said....I am starting to feel that my daughters are being help captive by the US State department...but that is an entirely different kind of situation! haha.

Kait 8:48 PM  

I hate hate hate the terms people use (and unfortunately I see it mostly on Christian blogs) that refer to children being ransomed or saved or rescued. My daughters are adopted. I didn't save them. I didn't rescue them. I didn't ransom them from some evil.

We adopted because we wanted to be parents. We adopted because we wanted kids and we knew that there were kids that wanted parents and adoption was the way to bring us all together. We adopted to become a family. NOT to evangelize or save our daughters to convert them for Christ. If those are the motivations for adoption then maybe you shouldn't adopt.

Andy and Jennifer 6:03 AM  

I am waayy out of the loop too because I haven't heard this, but...yuck! You know people may have their spiritual reasons or whatever. I don't agree with them, but that's ok. But parents should really think about how this will sound to their now babies or young children as they grow older. Adults may have spiritual, nebulous reasons for using "ransom", but what is the way that a child first understands that term? yeah, not that way. You want to undo the hurt and confusion and worry that term will bring until your child is old enough to understand what you as the parent meant? And that is, assuming, the child will eventually believe what the family does, and that may or may not happen.

His Hands His Feet Today 7:06 AM  

If you are a Christian, you may have forgotten that YOU were "bought at a price" - God's words not mine. (said twice, in 1 Cor 6 and 7). If you're not a believer, then I realize that makes no sense since you have nothing to "hang your hat on". But it is a truth. A price was paid for you. His name is Jesus.

There is no shame in that - only gratitude and victory to my father who loved me so much that he was willing to pay the greatest price. We don't expect that our kids be grateful to US, but to Him.... because our hearts should always be thankful. In every circumstance. Adoption is no exception.

Yes, we are a FAMILY... but that family was created in an extraordinary way. By Him.

A. Gillispie 9:19 AM  

K, you know I am a Christ-follower and live each day in gratitude that Christ ransomed me from satan. I am certainly not arguing that my soul was "ransomed." I'm saying, I don't believe that applies to adopted children. We are not all-knowing and do not REALLY know if our children's souls were ransomed through adoption. Well, actually, we do--because as a human I have no power to make any eternal difference in the lives of my children. I can only raise them up in the way that they should go, and hope that they choose to be Christ-followers as well.

Even though Taevy and Samren were born into cultures were chances are they would have not been brought up as Christians, I cannot say with authority that they would have never come to Christ without being adopted into my family.

On the other hand, I could have NEVER been redeemed by Christ through His sacrifice if it weren't for the "ransome" he paid for my life. He really DID save me from satan's snare.

He can save. We cannot.

I see where you are coming from, I just don't agree. But that's okay. =-)


waitingarms 10:29 AM  

I think people generally mean wellg when they blindly copy the latest terminology used in adoption. I do not think people think too deeply about the newest fad terms before they begin using the terms. I think people just want to be part of the special group of adoptive parents and what better way to show that you belong than to use the terms that most other adoptive parents are use? After reading so many adoption blogs, you begin to see so many similarities in descriptions of the feelings, process, countries, etc. I had blogged about blindly following others in describing our children's countries of origin and what it means to our adopted children at:



Rachel 7:08 PM  

Hi Anita,

I love your willingness to open up a potential "can of worms". Good for the body of Christ. Saw this and wanted to add my two cents (probably not even worth that but felt led to anyway. : ))

I have hesitated in the past to use this word "ransom" because of the misunderstanding that we are "buying children". But that is the only reason. When I use it I am not blindly copying faddish adoption lingo. I'm using Biblical lingo because I believe adoption is a biblical concept, and ransom is true of our spiritual rescue as well as an orphan's physical rescue.

What you say about orphanages or fosters homes may be true. Maybe they are in a wonderful care situation. But the truth is, there is still a horrible truth that has put them there, and that is that their parents are unable to raise them (through death or poverty or whatever). They do not have a family that can provide for their needs. That is a horrible situation, and one I would say EVERY child should be rescued from!! Good nannys or not---I believe families are God's ideal, and that is why we adopt. We may/may not be rescuing them from current physical danger or harm, but we are rescuing them from a life without a family.

Abby-If, as Christians, we're not on a rescue mission, then what the heck are we adopting for?! Selfish reasons? So we can have kids? Is that somehow better? I have four biological kids. We do not need to adopt to have a family. We are one already. We adopt because we are commanded to give of ourselves, to love as Christ loved,and to love a child that does not have a family. We long to demonstrate the love of God to a child who doesn't have a home.

I do agree with Carrie, there is a breakdown in the analogy with a birth country/past history being somehow more sinful than a future in an American family. But I would say, one of the effects of sin in our world in orphans...children with no moms, no dads...and placing the fatherless in families is redemption at is finest. And Kait, frankly, physical redemption is only lifelong. How small to make that your only aim. I absolutely am praying on my knees that God will bring my child to a saving faith in Christ that will provide an eternal rescue, and provide an eternal family.

Our child's ransom includes more than cash (wherever it goes--of course ethically directed I hope--it's still a price involved in the process, and saying it goes to a good cause doesn't make it any less of a ransom. It is the cost, justified or not, to provide a child a home.) But it is so much more! It involves a sacrifice--financially, emotionally, physically, logistically-- and (at times) a herculean effort that any family that has ever adopted will tell you. Is it worth it? Of course. Are we boastful or braggarts about it? Of course not--it is not for our glory but as a service to the King who laid down His own life for us. We would no more brag about that than we would about changing 100 poppy diapers in a day or waiting up late at nightfor your teen to come home-- it goes with the territory of parenthood.

I will be more careful in the future when I use this term. I agree, spiritually, Jesus is the only ransom-provider. I never want my child to feel like we somehow deserve credit or are asking for thanks . But we have indeed ABSOLUTELY paid a price--and one we are happy to pay--because we love them. Before we have even met them...well, let me speak for me.

I have not yet met my little girl. but I love her already. I would pay anything, sacrifice anything, to have her here. As I would for any of my children if they were facing a future with no family. There is a cost. It must be paid to bring her home. That is a ransom as far as I understand the term.

All that to say, I always love your challenges. I continue to be a faithful reader and am grateful for your honest posts.

Rachel 7:08 PM  
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Rachel 7:09 PM  
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Melodie 3:21 PM  

Wow, thanks for sharing this! I just noticed this in the blogging commuity and it was really bothering me as well. Not that it is terrible to use the word, just innappriopriate as you related so well.