In my last post, I went through some myths and truth about foster care and focused a bit on interpersonal issues. This time, I want to look at the big picture and talk a good bit about adoption. Throughout this series, I’ve tried to emphasize the great need for the church to be involved in care for orphans in foster care, and I’ve tried to honestly present both its challenges and joys. Today’s myth and truth work together to keep the church’s involvement with orphans relegated to a niche rather than among the hallmarks of our churches it should be.
Myth — Adoption is Too Costly
If you’ve consumed pro-life social media, you’ve likely run into a statement along the lines of “It’s a shame that an abortion costs $400 and adoption costs $40,000.” This statement is a myth. Here’s the truth: Even though abortions do cost somewhere around $400, that low cost IS STILL more expensive than the cheapest adoption. Adoption from foster care is free. Apart from special circumstances (such as air travel to meet a child), adopting a foster child usually costs zero dollars and zero cents. In fact, some states WILL PAY YOU to take care of foster children. Adopting a child from foster care is BY FAR the least costly way of having a child.
Again I say the idea that adopting a child is prohibitively expensive is NOT TRUE. Pro-life people, especially the pro-life industry, need to stop giving life to the myth. For one thing, caring for foster children ought to be as much a part of a “culture of life” as anything. More importantly, the careless propagation of this myth is a tragedy that has needlessly steered many Christians away from caring for orphans and scandalously left many children in state systems for too long.
So why do we keep saying it? Well, some adoptions DO cost a great deal of money. One of those types of adoptions is overseas adoption. I’ve heard of people taking out second mortgages and doing fundraisers to adopt children from halfway around the world. The travel, the fees, the payment of the agencies involved, and (sadly) the bribes are all rather costly. This is also a very risky way of adopting a child. Lots of families have had success with this method and they see it as an important ministry. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone from loving a child in a foreign country, but I also would warn anyone thinking about it to double and triple check everything about the process and then check again. Sometimes, the children have been kidnapped and/or are being sold to people posing as adoption agencies who then traffic these children to unwitting and unsuspecting Americans. In addition to the immorality of it all, often these children exhibit behaviors that will try the mettle of even the most patient Christian — not because they’re brats, but because a great injustice has been done to them.
Another type of expensive adoption is a private adoption of a newborn. The reason people participate in this kind of adoption is usually, quite simply, the adoptive parents don’t want to deal with an older child. They want a newborn and they’re willing to essentially pay someone to have one and sell the child to them. Usually, the process is not described as explicitly as I just described it. Typically the story is of a young single mom who became pregnant outside of marriage and (thankfully) doesn’t want to abort the child. They get hooked up with an agency which charges an absolute fortune to couples looking to adopt a child.
It’s the reason some adoptions are so expensive which is really the problem, both morally and financially. The truth is that people usually pay those prices not simply because they want a child, but a child that fits the criteria the adoptive family is looking for. It’s a market, plain and simple. The only difference between this and a black market is this market is legal, and the black market is at least honest enough to say out loud that children are being bought and sold. Additionally, we would be naive to believe that there aren’t women who have babies for the money, and brokers who empower them to do so. This is certainly not the norm, but only a fool believes this doesn’t occur. Where there is a market, there will be trade.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that usually free adoptions through foster care are an underutilized option when Christians want to adopt. The reason why is ALSO the real problem and reason some adoptions cost so much: people don’t want to deal with the problems of foster kids, they don’t want a child that isn’t an infant or newborn, and/or they don’t want a child that doesn’t fit their ideal. It’s a hard saying, but it’s true. It’s true even if you were to ask those people and were to hear them vehemently deny it. After all, why in the world would some pay the exorbitant costs of a private adoption when they could adopt a child for absolutely no cost?
Some offer an answer to that question. They say that they want to prevent those newborns from being aborted. That’s a noble endeavor, and I’m not in a position to say that it has no impact. But I don’t believe the impact is what many believe it is. In my experience, if people want to have an abortion, they will; and if people want to keep their baby, they will. What happens next and who may or may not exist to take on the responsibility of either choice very rarely plays a part in the decision. That is not to say that God can’t use a family that wants to adopt babies to prevent abortions. He can! But if that was all it was, it wouldn’t cost what it does, those types of adoptions wouldn’t be so rare, and the agencies that market newborns wouldn’t operate as they do.
It’s not that my wife and I can’t sympathize with the desire for a newborn. As newlyweds, we said we’d “have a few of our own and then adopt.” Then a few years into infertility we gave explicit instructions to our foster care agency that we were only interested in babies. We waited eagerly for a phone call for that little one and it never came. God let us stew in the situation we had built for ourselves; He let our hearts grow desperate as we insisted on controlling the situation. Finally, I got angry enough to call the agency and demand to know why we had to wait so long.
They responded by telling me they had a 4 year old available and no one could seem to manage him. I remember the caseworker saying that if we could find a way to bond with him, they’d happily place him with us, and we’d probably become his adoptive home. We said yes, and I make no bones about telling you that he was a very difficult child. He stretched us and challenged us in almost every way. God used him to beat down our expectations, to soften our hearts, and to make us into something He could use for His glory.
That precious kid turned from what a caseworker would later describe as a “feral child” to a sweet little boy who called my wife “mom,” and called me “dad.” We loved him so very much. Our hearts broke when he left our home. It felt like our child had died. We mourned for months, and in some ways, we’re still mourning; we still miss him. I am ashamed that there was a time when I would have said I didn’t want him because as it stands now, I don’t know how we ever lived without him.
Now we have 3 little ones in our home. We’ll likely adopt them soon (Lord willing). Some nights my wife and I look at each other after they go to bed and wonder how we ever got to be so blessed. They aren’t the children we would have asked the agency for 2 years ago, they weren’t exactly what we had in mind when we got married. But you’ll never convince us that they aren’t ours, and you’ll never convince us that they aren’t three of the best things to ever happen to us. I’m glad God broke us down. I’m glad He blessed us outside of our comfort zone, and I’m positively overjoyed to have these kids.
Do you want to adopt a child? Good! Please let me encourage you! There are thousands of children already born and already in need of a Mom and Dad. God will use them to bless YOU out of YOUR comfort zone too. All you have to do is be is willing to do the hard work. Chances are very good they will cost you nothing but a place in your heart.
Truth — We Can Make a Difference
If you’ve been around Christian social media, you’ve likely run into a statement that says something like “There are X (smaller number) number of children waiting to be adopted, and there are Y (larger number) number of churches in America.” The implication, of course, is it wouldn’t even take 1 adoption per church for Christians to make an incredible impact on the problem.
There are a few problems with this math. First, it’s laughable that even a majority of the number of churches cited in those statements could even remotely be considered anything resembling “God-honoring.” Surely counted in that number are churches that affirm homosexuality, churches with women pastors, churches that a far too oriented toward political movements, and churches that are mere conscience dulling social clubs. Considering the wretched state of the U.S., and the even more wretched state of Christianity in this country, anytime someone numbers churches in America it’s safe to cut out at least 60%.
The second problem with that math is the number of kids awaiting adoption is a hard number to quantify. Situations with kids in that condition are so fluid that the number is constantly changing. Additionally, there may be disproportionate representation across the spectrum of children in different areas. Perhaps, for example, there are a hundred churches with a family willing to adopt in Wyoming but only 5 children in need in that area while there may be a thousand waiting children in California and only 100 churches with a willing adoptive family. You can see how simple numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Nonetheless, they do tell part of the story. As I’ve said throughout this series, my family is a clear minority in the church. And, as I’ve also tried to convince you, this should not be so. The fact of the matter is ministry to foster children should be a major emphasis in the church at large, and it is simply not. We busy ourselves with all sorts of endeavors and we feel good about many of them, but we don’t busy ourselves with this. We should. We must. There should be such unrest among us knowing that we who worship the Father of the fatherless are largely untouched by the world of orphans. More importantly, the world of orphans is largely untouched by us. A mission field, ripe for harvest, sets within our grasp, and we let it pass us by. We have the power to overwhelm the forces of darkness that cause others to abuse children and prey on those little souls filling them with bitterness, sadness, anger, and anguish. What are we so busy doing? Surely many will answer with good things from evangelism to counseling to teaching to pastoring. Surely many more will answer with things that are far less noble, far less holy.
I have a suggestion for the American Christian: pray that God would break your heart for the things that break His heart. Pray that God would make you see the world through His eyes. Pray that God would cause you to be bothered by things and would not let you forget them. Pray for conviction. Pray for unrest in your soul. Pray for courage. And when you have done that, pray for the orphans and for the children not yet in homes like mine. If that doesn’t result in you becoming a foster parent within a year, perhaps God really does have something else for you to do (and I praise God that you would be used by Him in whatever it is!). However, I suspect that some who pray in such a way would experience a radical change in their outlook. I suspect many of those folks would become foster parents or make it a priority to support foster families. What a blessing that would be! As I said in my article on James 1:27 “Not all Christians should be foster parents, but many more should be than already are.” I suspect many who read this fall into that category.
If you do fall into that category, I say this: Don’t plateau your growth! Let God use those difficult and needy children to sanctify you. Let God use you to give those children the Gospel, regular meals, a safe and welcoming home, and an abundance of love. Do hard things. Do impossible things. Do great things! Do the things that matter, not just in your life but in the lives of children who otherwise don’t have much of a chance. Make an impact not only on this world but for the kingdom of our glorious Lord.
You CAN do this. You can do ALL things through Him who strengthens you and there is not a resource or blessing that He cannot give you. You probably SHOULD do this because we must make it a priority to love others and give up our lives for others. The only question that remains is if you WILL do this.
I hope the answer is yes. If it is, please reach out. I’d like nothing more than to bear the burden with you along the way. It’s been my prayer that God would not let me die until I have had a hand, personally, in creating 5 new Christian foster homes. Perhaps your home can be one of them. May God grant you the courage and strength to press on toward the upward call and may He fill His church with foster families. May He do it For His glory alone, and for the love of the orphans that are so close to His heart.
See all posts in this series