Finding my delight in the journey of adoption.

Are we helping orphans or creating them?

This is such a hard post to write because I am still processing.  I will start by saying that I don’t have the answers, just the questions.  One question that keeps coming up in my mind is whether we are helping orphans through international adoption or creating them.  When we were in DRC (the fraud and legal issues aside), we kept asking whether we should adopt the children since it’s what the parents had chosen.  Didn’t they have the right to choose to relinquish their rights just as parents in the US do?

It just didn’t sit right with us.  We didn’t get into this to traffic children to the US.  We got into this to help orphans.  A child that has a parent or parents is not an orphan in my mind.  This is where it gets tricky.  The children we were trying to adopt were no doubt vulnerable children in a difficult situation, but orphans?  No.  This is why all those “147 million orphans” ads and similar statistics don’t sit well with me.  I know it’s advertising and the point is not accuracy but shock and awe, but why isn’t 17.8 million orphans shocking enough (that’s the actual estimated number of children who have lost both parents according to UNICEF)?

It’s worrisome to me that these parents in DRC (and probably many like them) placed their children in an orphanage to be adopted to the US.  This family has a home, a car, some members with jobs, food, health, and love.   It’s even more worrisome to me that the orphanage accepted them given those known circumstances and that One World Adoption Services, Inc. advocated and endorsed their adoption.

OWAS touted their orphanage as the best in DRC – healthy, loved kids with the best access to food, medicine, care.  We loved that about it and now it makes us sick.  Why were those kids so healthy and loved?  Is it because they came from families who loved them and were caring for them? It’s even worse that it’s what we wanted.  We wanted perfectly healthy, beautiful, happy, well-adjusted kids.  Um, that’s not generally what we should be seeking when we want to care for an orphan.  I may be so bold as to say that there is no such thing.  How could there be?

I can’t help but struggle with the question of what about the true orphans?  The street kids, the sick kids, the kids with truly no one to care for them.  Why aren’t they in the “best” orphanages?  Why aren’t they being sought in droves by us Christians?  Why aren’t they being adopted at the same rate as the healthy babies?  Why are there waiting lists for healthy babies if there are 147 million orphans?

I’m not trying to judge.  If anything, I judge myself.  We got into this saying we wanted to be “all in” for Jesus and “all in” for the orphan…so long as we could get a beautiful, perfect, healthy, infant because we didn’t feel “called” to care for kids with “issues.    (Apparently, we hadn’t yet read the Bible to know what our true calling is.)

If families with means can get their kids into orphanages and adopted to the US because their kids are young and healthy, that’s a grave injustice to the kids who will die on the streets alone.  We need to do more than adopt.  We need to do more than trust these agencies that make money when we accept a referral and are incentivized to “find” kids to meet our parameters (no matter what they say, that is what’s usually going on). We need to stand up for the least of these.

It’s an ugly world out there.  People in desperate situations do desperate things.  I don’t blame that family for wanting a “better life” for their children.  Of course, they should be free to explore all options for their children.  But, I also need to see what’s going on and say no when it crosses a line.  If we, having the mind of Christ, don’t say no, who will?



10 responses

  1. Amanda, you’re right. These are all very good and important questions and points. Thanks again for writing so clearly what you have learned from your traumatic experiences. Praying for peace and clarity for next steps for your family and that your story will be used to affect those in process or considering adoption.

    October 2, 2012 at 7:50 pm

  2. Definitely a worthwhile question of any endeavor we pursue out of response to God’s love. “Is this our best path of response?” Thanks for sharing the details here.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm

  3. Mark

    Amanda, this is the same questioning and journey I have been on for the last 2 years, escalated when I started working for the Ugandan government in June 2011. You really are hitting the nail on the head. I was blessed (or perhaps cursed) to be allowed unprecedented access to government and orphanages. The resulting baseline study clearly shows that we (the west and our ideas on ‘orphan’ care) are more damaging than helping. Many of the orphanages I visited ‘recruited’ children into their orphanage and IA scheme in line with their vision and NOT due to the needs of the community, the policy of the government or in the best interest of the child. I have seen families ripped apart and coerced into allowing their children to be removed. Like I keep saying there is NOT an orphan crisis in Uganda and it is insulting when agencies and alliances for orphan care ministries spout orphan statistics knowing full well that the figures do not represent the reality on the ground. of the 2.4 million orphans in Uganda most are living with extended family or with single parents, to promote that they all need saving by the west is just plain manipulation. There IS however a ‘family preservation crisis’ of which children are often the victims….. that is where the true need is in Uganda to support families, single parents and preserve family structures….. not dismantle them using western ideas of orphanages or indeed IA. There ARE children which need international solutions but these are not the ones currently be made available for adoption. This is a critical time for the church to start speaking the truth about these things. James 1:27 talks about visiting the widows and orphans… whole ministries are based on the ‘visit orphan’ but people forget about the widows…. who are often the mother of orphans. let’s help and support them keep their children not devise schemes and programmes to separate them. THANKS for your voice and welcome to the family preservation, resettlement and alternative care movement!

    October 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm

  4. Thank you for writing! This is always a question of mine, “Why are there waiting lists for healthy babies if there are 147 million orphans?” Ideally, inter-country adoption would work well with domestic foster care/adoption, resettlement and family preservation. The latter would be sought first and IA would exist as an alternative to institutional care only when all other options were explored and not possible. We admire Child’s i in Kampala for creating a model that displays this. Truly a shining example of what ethical and progressive care for vulnerable children and families internationally can look like. What if we poured all the money that we do into building orphanages and instead invested it into building the capacity for proper supports and social services to be made available to vulnerable families!

    October 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    • My thoughts exactly! I know there’s no perfect solution, but it’s good to ask the questions.

      October 8, 2012 at 4:21 pm

  5. Thanks Amanda and all the respondents. What a pertinent question! Being an African, though I totally agree that there are children whose lives are endangered, I believe that the situation is blown out of proportion by those who are seeking selfish ends. In Africa, “it takes a whole village to raise a child”, which therefore implies that with traditional structures in place, there are simply NO orphans! there may be children who have lost one or both parents, but there is an aunt, uncle or granny willing to take care.
    I also believe that the best solution for Africa’s problems is in Africa. By importing solutions we are just making the problem worse by making the duty bearers less responsible and/or accountable. How can we better support the communities to solve their problems using their means and resources?

    October 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    • Thanks for your comment. Definitely some good food for thought.

      October 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  6. This is the question which divides discussion boards, email lists. It’s one that needs to be considered carefully by any PPP or AP. I love how you point out that there’s no such thing as a happy healthy.orphan.

    October 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm

  7. beavoicefororphans

    Way to be a voice for orphans!!… We support orphans cared for by the rural pastors and caretakers within the church there in India. Adoption has it’s merit (Psalm 68:6
    God sets the lonely in families…) and then there is supporting and providing for needs through the church caring for orphans that God establishes as a mandate (James 1:27
    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. Psalm 82:3
    Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.)

    So adoption is great to do (for 1 to several a family adopts)… And supporting rural churches caring for their own orphans can even be greater in that your little given can be more there in providing the food, clothes, education etc. to multiples of 10’s to 100’s that are in need. God bless you,


    February 9, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    • Thanks for the encouragement and for your work with and for orphans and widows. God bless you and your family!

      February 11, 2013 at 8:11 pm

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