Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Response to "Why Don't You Just Adopt?"

I read this article yesterday. It was written by a Christian woman who struggled with whether or not to conceive because she has a genetic bone disorder. She addresses the question that herself and other infertile women have been asked, "Why don't you just adopt?" The tagline states: "The frequent question assumes adoption is both easy and morally superior."

In general, I don't oppose the idea of discussing this issue. Asking an infertile woman, "Why don't you just adopt?" is about as insensitive as asking an adoptive mom, "Don't you want 'your own' kids?" Duh. Not on the list of friendly questions.

I definitely agree with her when she states that we shouldn't assume adoption is for everyone, because it is not easy. Absolutely. Not everyone has the time, energy, or resources necessary to go through the arduous process (though infertility treatments are not a walk in the park either).

I agree that wanting biological children is a God-given desire. And I am not opposed to most forms of infertility treatment. If we were living in the States and our insurance covered it, chances are good that we would be going down that path as well. Not that it would have ever stopped us from adopting. As I've written previously, adoption was never a "Plan B" for us.

But what I do bristle against is her insinuation that adoption is often full of ethical problems since many adopted children are not actually orphans. She gives the example of Haitian mothers who are handing their children to foreigners to help them escape poverty.

Hmmm. Is this really a reason that someone should consider not adopting? Should families refuse to adopt from Haiti or any other developing country because poverty has forced these mothers to give up their children?

First of all, speaking as someone who has gone through two international adoptions, let me assure you that if you do it the right way, there are multiple safeguards in place to ensure that children being adopted have not ever been forcibly taken from crying birth mothers. If you think about it, most adoptees, even in the United States, are not true orphans. Almost every adopted child has a biological parent out there somewhere. Does that mean that they shouldn't be adopted?

Of course our goal should be to help reduce the poverty that leads to fractured families. Of course it is a tragedy when a birth mother feels she cannot raise her child, for whatever reason. Of course it is a good thing for a child to know and love the culture which he or she came from.

But if we doubt that it could ever be in the best interest of a child to be removed from their biological family and put into a new one, then how could we ever become a part of the family of God? If we doubt our ability to love an adopted child, how can we know with assurance that God loved us as His adopted children? If we doubt the wisdom of mixing the races in our family, how can we say we believe that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ?

Please know that with all of my advocacy for adoption, I am fully aware that is is a calling. I do not consider adoption to be "morally superior" to biological reproduction. For example, my husband and I, at this point in our lives, do not feel called to intentionally adopt a child with major disabilities. Mainly because if we did, our entire ministry would change and we would probably need to return to the States. Of course, if God led us to adopt such a child, or gifted us with a child with disabilities, we would love and cherish that child. But I understand that just as
God hasn't led us down that path (yet!), so He does not lead every family to adopt.

But please, please, don't use the wrong reasons to make a decision not to adopt. Don't tell me that poverty alleviation is the only answer to children in poverty. Don't use the excuse that adoption shouldn't be necessary. Don't tell me that it's better to let a child languish in an orphanage with the hope that "someday" his parents will be able to take him home, instead of putting him in a loving home right now.

Yes, let's work on poverty alleviation. Yes, let's work on helping well-off Haitians (or Tanzanians, or Romanians, or whatever) to consider adoption for their own families. Yes, let's remember that we Americans are not the "savior" for these countries or their children. But as followers of Christ, let's also do everything we can to rescue these children from a life of desperation.

The author of this article states that she is not against adoption. But if she questions the morality of adoption, then how can she be for it? Indeed, we must be on our guard against any kind of insidious child-trafficking. But let us not take our eyes off the knowledge that adoption was created by God and is one of His passions.

Note added in 2016:  My views on this issue have changed.  Please start here to read what I have discovered.
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