A few days ago I had a handful of quiet moments to check blogs (a luxury these days). I was dismayed to see that one of my sweet friends is so fed up with what she sees in the word of international adoption that she's pretty much given up hope for ethical adoptions. One of her biggest complaints is people who jump up to "save" orphans (as young as possible please) in the name of Christianity. You can read Heather's blog HERE. I promise you, she's not alone in her thinking.
As I was thinking about how to encourage her, but also defend my personal thoughts about how there is HOPE for good clean international adoptions (another day, another post), I came to another blog post. This one was in reference to the Christian Alliance for Orphans Orphan Summit that occurred at Saddleback Church in California last weekend. Honesty, I seriously considered trying to attend the summit. I am a Christian. The idea of attending a conference where the topics would include orphan care and adoption with a Christian theme sounded really nice. I'd know lots of people attending. I'd be filled up. The message would be good, right? I heard tidbits on facebook about how wonderful the conference was. When I saw the title of the blog post I was almost offended. I did not WANT to agree with the post. I really didn't. But then I ended up agreeing with most of it.
Saddleback Church Orphan Summit: Five Reasons Why Rick Warren and Kay Warren Got it Wrong on Adoption and Orphan Care
Much of my blog is going to be in response to the article above so I really invite to you to go and read it now. Otherwise you might not know where I'm coming from.
In response to Kay Warren's quote about orphan care: I understand that Kay Warren does not herself define the CAM (Christian Adoption Movement). At the same time. She and Rick Warren have an incredible amount of influence over the Christian community. For her to say that adoption is first, second, and last when it comes to orphan care is truly pitiful to me.
NINETY PERCENT of the 163 million orphans we speak about are NOT ADOPTABLE. These children are classified as orphaned because ONE parent has died, but 90% of them are living with the other parent, or family members, or are otherwise not available for adoption. So if adoption is our first, second, and last plan for orphan care, we have come up with a very poor plan indeed. Come on folks, we can do better than that! [My opinion here is in line with the above article's point #1. The article goes into more details about this stat.]
We need to be thinking about how to care for the children who will not be adopted! It's more than 90, by they way. More like 99%. Remember, most people out there only want beautiful healthy young children. The majority of children who ARE adoptable are older special needs children. People aren't lining up to adopt them. So let's get real. What are Christians doing to care for the children left behind. Caring for orphans, the Bible has instructed us specifically to do.
FAMILY PRESERVATION--In my mind this should be at the top of our list. Why aren't we out there working our tails off to keep families together rather than allowing something like poverty to tear them apart? I KNOW it's not as easy as giving money most of the time. But sometimes, it is. We're smart. We can set up programs to get moms a way out of the poverty they are in for good. I bet you a dollar to a donut that each adoptive family could EASILY contribute to a reputable program that would allow at least TWO families to remain intact. For each adopted child, two children are "preserved" in their family. Why not make that your goal?
EDUCATION--See, I'm not presenting anything new here. It's all been done before. We just need to take it seriously! Education works. Orphaned and vulnerable children need it in order to survive their circumstances. Period. You can give it. There's a million and one different organizations with sponsorship programs. Children in other countries don't take education for granted like our kids do. They cherish it as if it were gold. They beg for it. It's all they would want for Christmas (if it were their tradition to ask for anything for Christmas). I CONSTANTLY have people writing me from Ghana asking me if we can add more kids to our sponsorship program.
GOOD ORPHAN CARE--This is the hardest thing to provide. This is a lot harder than keeping families together, in my opinion. Once kids are in orphanages, the care level is difficult to manage. Too many lies can be told. Too much can be hidden. But we have to TRY to provide the children who couldn't stay in a family situation with the best possible care. Ideally this would be a private or small group foster home or family-cell type orphanage. We must use our Western dollars to support the types of orphan care models that truly support the child's emotional health. Hey--here's a neat program I just heard about. It's called "Project 99" and it's a Bible Study that speaks specifically to the issues facing orphaned and vulnerable children (abandonment, self-worth, trust, etc)--the 99% that aren't adopted!
POINT 2 of the article mentions that the CAM (and the Summit in particular) hardly ever emphasizes the problem of child trafficking and corruption in adoption, therefore creating a population of adopters that are naive and end up contributing to the problem.
I do not necessarily believe that the CAM can be held solely responsible for educating the entire population of Christian adopters. HOWEVER, I do think that the CAM absolutely has a responsibility to educate about what is really going on in adoption! Come on! It's like serving someone a piece of pie and telling them it's good, while ignoring the giant cockroach in the middle of it!
The CAM is a powerful thing. It can be used for much good. It HAS been used for much good. Why not include in the message information about corruption and child trafficking? Why not include education about avoiding those things at all costs--even if it means you don't adopt your "as young as possible" flawless baby girl? Christians are generally intelligent people. They can handle the hard stuff just like the easy stuff. They deserve to know the reality of international adoption, not just the fluffy stuff. The CAM should be ashamed of itself for not holding entire breakout sessions on the problem of corruption in adoption, and how to avoid certain pitfalls. We cannot only focus on what a lovely picture of redemption adoption is. We must also share about how the evil one preys on these children through unscrupulous people and their prospective parents. Not to do so is a shame.
POINT 4 of the article speaks about the Biblical interpretation and theology of adoption put forth by the CAM. The Bible tells us we are the children of God, and therefore "adopted" by Him. The Bible tells us to care for the orphan (and widow, and poor, and stranger). The Bible does NOT specifically tell Christians to adopt. I think it's to the point now that there are some Christians walking around thinking that the scripture tells us to adopt! Seriously! No. The scripture tells us to care for orphans. That is our Christian responsibility. Not all Christians are called to adopt! I think some Christians feel like they need to adopt to in some way show they are "more" Christan--that they are REALLY caring for the orphan. Just this week I read another Christan proclaiming proudly on facebook that they were "on a RESCUE MISSION!" They were going to "get" three children from Ghana! Privately that person told me they would be rescuing those children so they could "share the word of Christ" with them! Umm... The Bible certainly does not tell us to adopt orphans in order to fulfill the Great Commission. Adopting isn't a mission field. I pray that the CAM can more carefully convey that adoption is ONE WAY to care for orphans, but that there are many other ways to do that as well, and that we are not all called to adopt.
It's not that I'm against this movement. I just feel that it is off target. I feel that the message is swaying too far in one direction. ORPHAN CARE should be the focus, with adoption as one part of that spectrum. And within the adoption portion, we must must MUST speak about more than the "fluffy" stuff. We must speak about corruption and child trafficking. We must share with families about the fact that most adoptable children are not infants (or even young children). We must prepare families for the difficulties of trauma. [I saw that the Orphan Summit had breakouts with Purvis--very cool.]
I wasn't at the Orphan Summit so I definitely cannot speak with any authority about the entire event. I am speaking more to the Christian Adoption Movement as I see it today, and my concerns. Of course there are MANY people who attended the Orphan Summit who totally "get it!" But then there are those--like the guy above who is going to adopt kids so he can evangelize to them--that don't. What can we as Christians do to lessen the number of good hearted families from stepping into something with the best of intentions but that very well may end with terrible results? This movement has POWER! If the message were tweaked this movement could truly change the lives of the 163 million orphanage out there--not just the 1-10% that are adoptable.