My children are not my own. And yet they are. It is an ambiguity that I will live with all my life. When I chose to mother children through adoption, I also chose to accept that I would never be the only mother in their world.
Adoption is born of tragedy. All adoption. It was a TRAGEDY in the lives of my children that they were unable to stay with their first families. It was because of this sinful, fallen world that their first families were broken, or hungry, or dysfunctional. It was God's perfect plan that all children would be born into a family with both parents, happily united with enough resources to care for all. But of course, Adam and Eve. We know that story. And the world fell into sin. And the sin of the world brought all of the brokenness and heartache and disease and hunger that so many now know. My children were not born into healthy families as a result of this fallen world. What now?
God is in the business of redemption. He redeems! He rescues us from our tragedies. In all of His infinite knowledge, He knows how to turn hurt and broken things into healthy and fruitful things. God created adoption. Just like God gave us Jesus as "Plan B" for eternity (when Adam and Eve messed up "Plan A"), I believe that God created adoption as a sort of "Plan B" for children and families.
When we adopted our first child, I was not who I am today. I was focused on GETTING. I was focused on phrases like "as young as possible" and "now" and "go faster!" I was focused on telling people things, but I was not focused on ASKING a lot of questions. I should have been. Asking questions. I felt entitled to this child from a foreign land. After all, nobody else "wanted" her, right? It wasn't until I had her in my arms, standing on a balcony in Cambodia, that I realized I was TAKING her from so much. Yes, her culture, her beautiful culture. But more than that. Had my focus on GETTING her caused her (or others like her) to become available in the first place? It was only then, after it was far too late to turn back, that I began asking questions like "Why?" and "How?" It was only then that I realized I was in no way entitled to this child. That I had no claim to her. I knew God could work ALL things for good. I knew God allowed this child into our family. But had I unknowingly contributed to a culture of want and entitlement that was rotting international adoption from the inside out? I asked myself that question over 12 years ago, and I have come to believe that I was, in fact, a part of that rot.
We, as adoptive parents, must START accepting responsibility for our role in the current state of international adoption. It's in a bad place. It's not just red tape and changing government regulations that have caused adoptions to fall more than 50% since 2000. Our own greed in wanting to add these children to our families (almost always for the BEST of reasons) is causing this. Our requests to "hurry up" put pressure on those in foreign governments to cut corners. Our mentality of "America is best." is creating a culture of adoption in countries where INTACT families wish their children to go to America. This is wrong. What are we doing to turn this around? To start, we can at least ask ourselves the hard questions, and admit that we are part of the problem.
In the past 5+ years a new movement has been making big waves on the adoption front. Many children have found families because of this movement. The Christian Adoption Movement. As well-meaning as this movement is, I think for the first several years the message was off target. [It is much improved now.] The message that was getting out to people was that as Christians we have a duty to adopt. Not a duty to care for orphans and to protect vulnerable families, but to ADOPT. This has led to families adopting in order to "save" a child (to evangelize). This has led to families adopting out of a sense of Christian duty rather than because the Lord specifically called to help "the orphan" in this way.
I had a friend today ask a very important question. This is a woman I GREATLY respect. She is one of the best moms I know, and I have learned a lot by observing how she runs her family (from afar). She asked: "Which is preferable: for a child to grow up with their bio family, country and culture, and never hear about God, and eventually go into eternity not knowing Him, or is it better for a child to be raised in a godly home and be a part of His Kingdom forever?" Wow. Tough question. At first. Until I think about it. I can honestly say that IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES I believe it is better for a child to grow up in God's perfect plan for a family--a first family. An intact, happy, married family with parents that can provide all needed resources for their children. I don't believe that we Christians EVER have a right to take a child from a family simply because the child might not become a Christian otherwise. What is that? Christianity by Kidnapping?
GOD has the power to reach every child for His glory, through His servants on earth. YES, we Christians have a responsibility to be the hands and feet of God...to reach out to the whole world. But NO, I don't believe He would have us adopt for the express purpose of saving/evangelizing a child. All four of my children were born into cultures/tribes where the stats say it is very unlikely they would have grown up as Christians. And yet, if it were in my power to choose for them to be with their first families (had they been healthy families) I would have done that. God sends Christians all over the world to reach the unreached.
These are hard things to consider. And the deeper I go, the more I realize there is to think about. My intent is not to offer all the answers. I don't have them. I just hope to offer food for thought. I don't feel entitled to my children, but I thank God that somehow He entrusted me to raise them when this broken world failed them. I pray that I care for His children--and advocate for all those that don't have families--in a way that He would endorse.