Evangelical Adoption

We are raising our kids to think for themselves, but to know that their father and I, we believe in the Trinity, and we believe the Spirit lives within us. I am training my children up in the Lord, as the verse says, but I am not brainwashing them. Huge difference. Some studies show large amounts of kids, up to 80%, 90%, & more, turn from their faith once they grow up and/or go off to college. Some find their way back. The same verse we Christian parents live by, “train your children up in the Lord,” actually goes on to say that when they are older, they will not depart from it.” So obviously the typical way of bringing up our children by making them be a Christian and giving them no other option just isn’t working. We can’t bring people to the Lord. Only Christ Himself has done the work and only the Spirit will do the work. Doing a good deed works the same way.

I like to share my faith with the boys when they ask, but usually other than read bible stories with them and share parables, we don’t make them do things that one would consider “training them up in the Lord.” Because I learn from the mistakes of the past and I’ve seen what the current way of “training” them does to kids. We don’t make them memorize verses… why? Well, Christ is the word and He is the living Spirit hidden in our hearts, not some memorized verses. I had tons of verses memorized and sometimes would say one right before I did a bump in my car in a back ally in Philly. I would say one of the forgiveness ones I memorized. Hiding Christ in my heart, because again He is the Word, has been what’s changed my life. And that is not something I can do for my kids. That is a treasure they will have to discover through revelation, not force.

We live our lives and the kids come along with us. They are still relatively young (elementary grades) and so when we leave they have to go where we go. They are around when we are involved in giving, serving, and extending a hand. They learn more of Christ on those days than they do in a Bible lesson. That’s our family, and these are my observations. Those who do differently aren’t wrong, as there are many who succeed at raising straight arrows through the traditional Bible school ways. My way isn’t the best, it’s just the way I’m choosing based on what I’ve seen in the past. We’ll see how it works out when the kids leave the nest. Most parents just want their kids to be kind people and to give more than they take, although at times I have seen brainwashing disguised as Christian parenting. That’s pretty church-y and more like what the Pharisees did and not what Jesus taught.

In my last post I wrote about a new trend that is called the Evangelical Adoption Boom. It began back in 2007, during a meeting/conference that hosted all the big names in Christianity. Not Christ or God or big names like that, but more like famous Christian authors and pastors. As I come from a big family of adoption I get a say in how I feel about this. There is adoption all over the place in the Leber family, the Kerschner family, the Campbell family and in our current Dukes’ household. Those are all names of my very close relatives; G-parents, Aunts & cousins, even my amazing Dad. I would not be here had he not loved me enough to adopt me. He knows most of my deepest and darkest secrets and treats me as though I was always a good daughter. My Dad looks past my ugliness and sees the good in me. He is a wonderful grandfather who is an example to my boys of a real man, behind their own father of course:). His love is one of the most beautiful examples of earthly love I have ever experienced. He legally became my Dad when I was 4 or 5, so I remember a little bit of life before him. I always wondered why Jeff gave me up. It had to be a mistake. He had to regret it everyday, right? Maybe he tried to look for me and get me back because how could my biological father just sign me away? Maybe he didn’t have the money to care for me or felt like he wasn’t good enough? The hard truth… it was never a mistake. He meant it and didn’t regret it. I met him (again) when I was 20 and although he was kind to me, he still didn’t want a daughter. He gave me up because he did not want me. I am thankful I never had to know that rejection thanks to my real Dad who adopted me into his life, his family, and made me his own daughter. So, obviously I am not opposed to adoption. Actually, it’s a wonderful picture of love that God extends to us.

I like adoption. I do not like the Evangelical Adoption Boom. As I read more and more about the process, the agencies, where all of the obscenely large amounts of money go, and the movement in general, I have formed an educated opinion. A spiritually mature and insightful human being once wrote these words and I take them to heart in this matter, “… a wise person can detect patterns. And he’s able to foresee outcomes (Luke 11:49 and Proverbs 22:3). A wise person may make a statement like this, “What you said sounds good, but it’s not going to work and here’s why…” Not claiming to be wise, but I am very experienced and through life experience both in and out of the church, I can rely on the Lord to give wisdom, in the form of the Spirit within me, based on my past experiences. So I am taking a big leap here and asking, are these new adoption practices scriptural? Is it right? How will it affect the future for parents, adopting parents, the kids, the countries, and finances? Unlike the leaders in the Colorado conference of 2007, I could care less how it makes the church look. Christ cared very little about appearances. Christ wasn’t against people, He loved everyone, despite their lifestyle, and we have yet to learn from this. Being anti-gay-person doesn’t make you or me a Christian, it makes you or me a bigot. The adoption trend is supposed to be an antidote to the anti- everything stance that the church seems to have on all of today’s controversial issues. Anti-gay, anti-divorce, anti-abortion… get the picture?

So these influential men, most likely with good intentions, decided that the church needed to be “for” some good things to take the focus off of everything religion is against. This has trickled down into local churches all over the country. Normal parent adoption rates are down. Christian parent adoption rates are booming, with some families adopting up to seven or eight kids.

There have been many successful adoptions from foreign countries by American parents who couldn’t have children (or anymore children), or just really wanted another child and adopting was the best way for them to do that. I am not writing about those adoptions in this post. I am addressing the Christian Save-the-Orphan movement in this article. The EAB (Evangelical Adoption Boom) is composed of those wanting to help and to do something big for God. The movement is motivated by a desire to change the image of Christianity, but also to love as we have been loved. So I can understand the intensity and impulsive need to do it right away. The local pastors and parents love the Lord and there is a desire to raise children who are living in poverty and the desire to give them a better life. Only, the money spent doing so could go so much farther if the main goal is to help children. If the main goal is to have more kids, then yes, spend the money. But the EAB encourages Christians to rescue children from their poor life in Africa or China. The gesture to adopt is grand, but the money is grand also. And I bet many villages would be grateful to have those resources to build better lives for themselves and future generations. Unfortunately it is costing these families tens of thousands of dollars just to get them here and adopt them. This doesn’t include the cost of raising them. A fraction of that money would be sufficient in reuniting children with their birth families and getting them all the medical attention they need in order to stay together.

You see, these children that were given to family members, or are living with just one parent, are being given away as orphans. All children that do not live with both parents are called “orphans” in other countries. So families who are adopting for reasons of wanting to change the world and give the children a better life could do that without taking them. The agencies charge 25 grand and more for the adoption process and keep about 5 grand. This is an average of the agencies I looked into. Instead of giving to the families the orphans live with, everyone involved in the business of adoption gets a cut.

Leaders in both Africa and China are telling parents and family members that their children will have a better life if they are given to Americans and raised in a country with a good education system. Side note… some of the countries oversees are known for their good schools and universities/colleges, yet all we are shown are pictures of dirty streets and dirty children. If we took pictures of the worst part of every city in America we would look just as poverty-stricken. People here are dying too. Children being adopted in America are coming from some brutal situations. Sickeningly abusive situations. The corruption and manipulation on the part of the ones making the money is very strategic. I’ve seen documentaries showing the foreign countries to be all slums. International adoption tends to work in this boom bust cycle. One country closes and another country becomes a popular hotspot. And I have to ask, was the last country that is no longer a hot spot no longer filled with poverty and orphans? Probably not. Questions arise and problems are brought to light and so it’s time to move on to the next poor country with an abundance of children. As a long time supporter of the A21 Campaign to end human trafficking, I agree with many other Christians that this new trend often times falls under the category of human trafficking. Many of the adoptions are misrepresented to both adopting parents as well as biological families. The kids sometimes feel as though they have been kidnapped (their words, not mine), but the agencies show video clips of success stories from adoptions that happened way before the EAB, when adoption was just adoption and not a call from God to save a child.

The most important issue, as an adopted person who has an adopted son, is the one that turns personal adoption into a charity. Leaders are urging parents who can not afford the über expensive decision to adopt, to do it anyway. Right now. And that doesn’t include the cost of raising these children.

If we are going to play the God card here and say that God wants us to save these children by adopting them (instead of giving the money to save and/or reunite the families), then God will also provide the resources. A child is not a charity. They are not people to be rescued by the Christians who save them from a life of hunger and poverty. This “savior to an orphan” mentality has turned adoption into a charity. This issue angers me to no end. Had I been adopted to “save” me, I would be indebted to my family. Fortunately, my adoption had nothing to do with an evangelical agenda or mission. It had nothing to do with moral high grounds and taking a step towards ending human suffering. Christ does that through His church and through individuals and He does it that way so that no person is vulnerable to feel “paid for” with cash. Because we were already paid for in blood.

I have no idea what money was exchanged in my adoption, if any. My sons adoption (which isn’t complete yet thanks to lack of resources) is a hefty couple thousand in lawyer fees due to unusual circumstances. It’s a rare case.

It has nothing to due with his adoption, but rather making sure it’s done right because there were complications. He will never be bought or paid for. The only buying we do is on a daily basis when we feed him and clothe him 🙂 He will not be bought so that we have rights to take ownership of him to raise him. We’ve been raising him from the beginning. And never once was he owned by us. He’s a part of our family and if I were to say he is owned by anyone it would (jokingly) be the grandparents… he can do no wrong in their eyes. Children are not a cause. Non-profit organizations that give money and help the children are causes. Therefore, when church leaders and “the call from God” urge people to adopt without at least $**,000 in their account, they are forced to turn a child into a charity. Because it’s the only way they have to get their children who are hungry and dying and suffering over there to over here where they will finally be loved. That’s what the EAB is pushing.

Adoptions that have not been a part of the Movement are treated just like any other birth into the family. The rule of thumb has always been to treat an adopted parent like a birth parent. The mother and father do need money, but most of it is covered by insurance or Medicaid. So an adoptive parent will need to work a little harder, get a second job, borrow from their 401K, or do whatever they have to in order to get their child. I remember my parents working so hard all the time. My dad would sit down for a minute and fall asleep because he would work a graveyard shift, come home, then go to work in the family business during the day. He went from having no kids, to having a family with two kids in one year. The sacrifices my parents made were normal back then. And today as well. My aunt adopted my cousins. It was a very long process that began years ago and was finalized this year. She is the luckiest woman alive and she knows it. Those kids needed help, they had some special needs due to previous abuse (they were not special need kids) and she worked hard to love them back to health. Mentally, emotionally, and physically. All the while knowing she might not officially adopt them. The original goal was reconciliation with the birth mom, but in the end, my aunt was the best mom for them. She is a mom.

She is not the mom of adopted children. She is just a mom. She has wanted to adopt for two decades, and financially, this was the time. A big part of deciding to do anything is taking stock of finances and being responsible with what we have. Because my Aunt waited and was prepared, now she is able to be the mom she needs to be for her kids. That is what I thought adoption was like for everyone. It was what I had always known until now.

What sparked all of this research I have been doing about adoption?…

We know a family adopting through one of the agencies included in the movement. The adoption seed was planted through humanitarian and evangelical missions to begin with in this family. They are conscientious of the changes they can make in the community, both as Christians and leaders in their local church.  It was the Christian obligation to help the many they already serve which opened their hearts to adopt. Small changes such as switching to fair trade cocoa and coffee began to give them a global vision as well. They have held fundraisers to adopt their future children. When I learned of this I began to do some reading. I had never heard of fundraising to adopt before. That’s when I learned about the EAB.

Fundraisers are for businesses and charities, and adopting a child is neither. But again, this is what the EAB is urging people to do. I am not against fundraising to adopt in certain situations (I won’t go into that here), but it is harmful to the child. It furthers the mentality that the children need to be rescued and they are the “cause” that the church has taken on. Pulling on heartstrings for adoption like an infomercial is opposite to adopting for the sake of wanting another baby.

I want another baby and can’t have one, physically. My last pregnancy could have killed me and baby. Now I don’t have the necessary parts needed to carry a child. It’s heart wrenching to want my fourth baby so bad and not be able to have him or her. I hope to adopt one day so I’ve done a little research. I will be staying far away from agencies who are associated with countries that do not have strict laws protecting the local families. I will also wait until the financial resources are available, just like my Aunt did. I have much respect for the countries who close the adoption door in order to protect those families and pray that more would do so. Until the Church can get a handle on our hunger for saving ( saving by adopting, not saving by giving to the cause for family reconciliation) the poor little children in Africa and China from dying of starvation, I think every country should take a step back, look at the definition of orphan and adoption and make sure that no child with a family is ever taken and given away. Life in these foreign countries with little money and their own family is better than life in America with more money and nothing but memories of the biological family they were taken from. Yes, there are diseases in those countries that we don’t want those children getting, but there are diseases here, like cancer and heart disease, that are far less common in their simpler world. In reading about the lives of children adopted after being taken from their poor families, I heard happy stories of what they remembered from back home. The music, the festivals, the games, the un-commercial way of life… it’s not so bad. Many of the adopted kids miss their home in Africa. These are not the true orphans, which actually only make up 5% of orphans in Africa. Stories of the other 95% are heart-wrenching because they could have had a better life with their families had they been given a fraction of what Americans spent to adopt them and raise them.

We give to the adopted child/ren  in our family the way we give to the non-adopted ones. Gifts for parents in the form of a baby/child shower, gifts for the children, and lots of love. Just like a child adopted naturally or a child born into the family. I do not believe in the trend of adoption fundraising. So many issues with it.. maybe in another post. Mainly fundraisers are for causes and charities, not children. Again, I can not mention it enough, from an adoptee standpoint I am extremely opposed to it.

Chris and I have a mountain of bills surrounding all of my surgeries, procedures and treatments this year. My cancer may have started to metastasize in my urinary tract and due to Obama Care we are not going to be able to pull off getting the biopsies done every few months, in addition to the surgery I need now. I am having to wait to get the medical care I had planned on getting until Obama broke his promise to keep our insurance the same and changed our insurance plan from expensive to astronomically expensive. We are drowning in medical bills and until something explodes in me or starts bleeding and doesn’t stop, I am not going to bankrupt our family anymore with medical bills. We have changed everything to make a dent in paying what we owe the doctors and hospitals. We don’t go out to eat, take absolutely no vacations or date nights (we have at-home date nights and rent a Redbox movie), and we eat rice and beans or pasta with veggies instead of the extravagant meals we used to eat that required more than 6 ingredients. I began working from home selling my amazing books… check out my store front links at the top of my blog. Yup, I just inserted a shameless plug into my post. We find free homeschool resources for the kids to partake in instead of expensive classes or clubs. God didn’t give us suggestions to bury us, He gives us wisdom to make our lives better. We are to give to the storehouse first (which is the local church if your local church is caring for the community; if it’s not, say something because where is all that money going?). Second, we take care of our family (food, clothing that fits, mortgage, heating bill, water bill). Thirdly, we pay medical bills. In the meantime I have a very specific cause that will not stop nagging at me and I am fundraising for that cause. Children in the oncology wing at Mercy Children’s Hospital in KC. I collect books, money for books, and use my discount with Barefoot Books to buy the approved books and cd’s, supplemental finger puppets, origami crafts and stickers. That’s my fundraiser. It’s for gifts to give to children. It’s for a cause. If I could pay their medical bills, I would. But a $20 gift bag with a book/cd/craft or toy will brighten the day of hundreds of kids rather than give $20 to each kid towards their medical bill. The point of fundraising I’ve been involved in has been to show a gesture of love and community and caring to a person. Hopefully over and over again to many people. It’s not something I should/would ever do for myself.

Fundraising should never place one person in a seat of savior and another in the seat of saved. That’s not the goal. That’s not the heart behind it. But now that the EAB is in full swing people are fund raising like crazy to give to the charity of adopting their babies- paying for travel, time off work, the agency, the fees, and the actual kid. Not to mention all the fundraising that will have to continue in order to take the children back to their homelands every so often. And all the fundraising for the needs the kids will have once adopted. For that reason, I don’t participate in fundraising to adopt a child. If I believed in that I would be doing it right now to get myself the baby I so desperately want.

There are many unethical practices surrounding the issue of foreign adoption, including the manipulation going on in order to meet the demands of Christians wanting to adopt during this boom. I have only scratched the surface here, but plan to work more on getting this issue brought to light. I have experience in working to fight the human trafficking that goes on in Russia and Greece, but now that I am aware of the children being trafficked, I am sure to continue my writing on this issue.

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend friends.

Love,

Jackie

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