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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adoption Realities

If you’ve read my blogging for any length of time, you’re probably aware that I’m a proponent of adoption. Parenting and loving children whom you did not give birth to is not a new concept. It’s been around for centuries. But in modern times, some truths have emerged that aren’t so pretty. I can see these truths. There’s evidence of these truths that would back up my observations. And yet, I’ve never seen anyone write about them or address. Not even Oprah seems to have picked up on these ugly truths about modern adoption.

So what’s the deal? What controversies am I about to ignite today? Bear with me here. I think I have some points worth making. Let’s examine what I can observe.

The first thing I notice is that despite all of our progressive, civilized thinking, there are more children in the world today without parents than there’ve ever been. Estimates by international charities and governments put the number of orphans, for example, as somewhere north of 30 million. Imagine, more than 30 million children are growing up without parents. It’s a staggering number. Sadly, it’s a growing number too. The world’s population of orphans may be one of the fastest growing segments of mankind.

The second thing I notice is that more people are spending more money, waiting longer and working harder than ever before to become adoptive parents. It sort of doesn’t make sense. You’d think the theory y of supply-and-demand would kick in here … and that the proliferation of orphans would drive down the cost of adopting them. But that would assume the adoptive parents are genuinely interested in the orphans and have their best interests at heart. They often times don’t.

A lot of the money spent on adoption today is spent because the adoptive parents are selfish. The adoption is all about them --- and not about the child they’ll get. Few people who spend money adopting a child are driven because the Lord moved in their hearts toward the child. Instead, they see themselves as parents, and decide (for a variety of reasons) to fulfill that identity with adoption. Now that I’ve decided to become a parent, it’s just a matter of deciding which child to adopt, from where, how much it’ll cost and how long it’ll take.

This is not unlike the woman in the news recently, who decided she would marry on a certain date next year. She’s gone about planning the wedding, purchasing all she’ll need and engaging everyone she wants to make it her special day. Her final objective now is to find the husband who will meet her requirements in her decision to become a wife. It sounds crazy doesn’t it? It’s been in the news and people are talking about it because it’s unconventional, a bit outrageous, and more than a little self-centered and piggish of this bride-to-be. It also shares several things in common with many of the people who decide to become adoptive parents.

I talked with someone recently who told me, “If I’m not married by the time I’m 35, then I plan to just adopt a kid.” In a similar conversation a few months ago, someone was trying to conceive a child – to no avail. When I suggested adoption, they responded, “Oh, we may consider that. But we’d want to try and have our own child first. If we can’t do that then we’ll adopt.” In yet another conversation about a year ago, I was talking to someone who has adopted internationally several times, and they were explaining how expensive it has been. When I questioned the need for such expense, the woman answered, “Oh it’s been expensive, but it has totally been worth it because we’ve been able to select just the right children to build the family we wanted.”

These are not moronic people. They’re not evil people either. But they consider such statements to be totally plausible. And yet they fail to see the giant label of selfishness that’s stamped all over these perspectives. Their adoptions of orphans are all about them. The actual child is inconsequential to their overall strategy. Just like the ambitious bride who plans her marriage and then shops for prospective husbands – these people plan their parenthood and then shop for prospective children. I imagine some of these adoption agencies feel a bit like order takers sometimes. “Tell me what kind of child you want, how much you’re willing to pay – and I’ll see what I can find that meets your requirements.”

I know, you’re going to tell me that my perspective is overly cynical and mean-spirited. But you won’t be able to convince me that I’m wrong. These adoption efforts have selfishness stamped all over them. Call me a cynic, but I believe adoption should be about the child. “Are there any unwanted, unloved children out there? Let me be the one to stand in the gap and love on them. Come here my little one. I will love you. I will lead you. I will nurture you.” Such a driving force would not likely find an abundant supply of perfect Caucasian infants (which is what most adoptive parents are seeking these days).

The third thing I notice is that most people are ignorant about the plight of children today. They don’t know, for example that there are more than 30 million orphans – most of whom will never be adopted by anybody. They don’t know that in the U.S. there are thousands upon thousands of children in foster care mostly because they had inappropriate parents. They’re available for adoption. Most states even offer financial assistance to the adoptive parents. But they are often of mixed race, physically and/or mentally handicapped, in sibling groups, have health issues and probably are emotionally ill. And no one will take them, love them, lead them, nurture them and raise them. They will be “wards of the state” until they reach chronological age of adulthood – at which point they will be sent out into society to fend for themselves. States don’t care for parentless adults. They don’t send them to college. They don’t help them find their first job. How many people know that? Do you suppose if they did they would continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars seeking perfect white infants from abroad?

The fourth thing that I know about adoption is that it can be incredibly challenging. Even perfect white infants from Russia or China (or whatever country is in favor at the moment) will come with emotional baggage. They didn’t get nurtured at their mother’s breast. They didn’t have that skin-on-skin contact that is so vital in infancy to a child’s ability to bond and trust and relate. So adoptive parents should expect to spend thousands on therapy, special schooling and maybe even family counseling. Raising adopted children has its challenges. And some of them can be severe. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Several years ago there was a riveting movie called, Mommie Dearest. It was the story of Hollywood actress Joan Crawford and her mothering of her four adopted children. As the story goes, Joan wanted to be a mother, so she went and got the children she needed to meet that requirement. Unfortunately, her children were dynamic. They were complex. They had feelings, and demands. They could be rebellious. They could be inconvenient. They required sacrifices. And as the story played out, we saw that several of these things had apparently not been in Joan’s plans for motherhood. I suspect they’re not in the plans that lots of people have for parenthood.

So what’s the point? Why am I blogging today about this? Well, believe it or not, I’m not trying to bash adoptive parents. Any child that gets adopted and becomes loved and cared for is a good thing – regardless of the motive behind the adoption. But frankly, I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere with these millions of orphans unless our motives change.

Could we have a noble belief – such as the notion that we could eliminate orphans? We hold fast to the ideal that we can, for example, eradicate poverty. Could we hold a similar ideal for the plight of unloved, unwanted, and uncared for children in the world?

The situation won’t improve until the hearts of capable adults are broken for these children. It is my prayer that at least 30 million hearts would be broken for today’s parentless children. They’re in foster care. They’re in orphanages. They’re on the streets, fending for themselves. They’re trapped in sexual slavery (literally thousands of them). Many of them have been abused physically, sexually or emotionally. Most of them have suffered extreme neglect. They want for basic needs like nutrition, health care and education.

Can our self-centered hearts turn from the ideal of using the orphans to fill the orders that our idyllic lives require? Can our hearts be broken for these children? Will we step out in faith and in sacrifice on their behalf? That is my prayer. It is my great hope.

So tell me, do you have room in your heart for any more of God’s children today? How many empty beds are in your home right now? Can you honestly look at 30 million children whom nobody wants and nobody loves --- and tell me that God “hasn’t called you” to do anything about that?

1 comment:

  1. This post made me smile, as the exact message I need to hear this morning. I've heard so many talk like some of the parents above and it makes me so sad....the devaluing of life. THANK YOU for writing this....