Other adoption related articles on this blog.
Adoption has been practiced in almost every country and culture throughout history. Still today there are millions of children all over the world needing shelter, health services, education and a primary carer/family. However, you could be forgiven if you thought there was an anti-adoption culture within Australia. The use of adoption in jokes are still commonplace – Why is your brother so strange/odd/etc? He’s adopted! When couples cannot have children by natural conception, they are encouraged vigorously to pursue IVF and GIFT programs and in some cases can get government funding to aid them. Adoption is usually regarded as a last, desperate resort to have or extend a family. When some notice that an adopted child was adopted into a friends family it is spoken of in hushed embarrassed tones as though it is a dreaded, shameful sin that dare not speak its name. Adoptive couples are often bailed up by strangers with rude, intrusive questions and comments, like: Oh! So, you couldn’t have your own then?! For some reason, there are some people that assume normal social decorum and decency no longer apply. In the case of an interracial family strangers behave even bolder: Where were they born? What happened to the mother? Did they suffer in the orphanage? Adoptive parents soon learn how to deflect these novice paparazzi, mostly with gentle humor, but sometimes it gets a little much and the reply might be as curt and rude as the original question.
Historically, Australia’s involvement in adoption and orphan care (particularly interracial) hasn’t always had a healthy or positive outcome for the children, their biological families or the adoptive families. Recent moves at federal level, supported by private initiatives such as National Adoption Awareness Week are seeking to improve upon this by promoting a positive approach to adoption. This not only provides education to adoptive parents to help them learn about the factors of abandonment, attachment and identity of the child but also extends to, where possible, support for the biological families of the children. We have a long way to go, but as they say, you have to start somewhere.
Adoption and orphan care is far to complex to resolve in a simple blog post. However, what I would like you to consider is, how can Australian Christians and Churches become more interested, involved and committed to orphan care. Adoption is an wonderful and amazing picture of how God has brought us into his family. If anyone can understand the beauty of adoption, surely it is the bible believing evangelical Christian? Perhaps it is an education and awareness issue. Perhaps, in part, it stems from a reaction to the efforts of various social and welfare groups, that due to their focus on serving the community by way of providing aid, comfort and help to ease temporal suffering, the gospel message of Jesus has been diluted and in many cases dissolved completely. After all, they reason, what good is accomplished if you give a homeless person a bed for the night if they later die anyway and spend eternity in the torments of hell? I once had this exact attitude. When working in Africa as a Bible Teacher and Church Planter I became callous and cynical to the requests for medical aid, touting that, “I’d rather preach the gospel to them than give them chloroquine so they can be relieved of malaria symptoms and die later and go to hell.” Yet, as a wiser, older Christian pointed out to me when making my progress (!) reports later, “If you had given them medicine they might have lived longer to hear and respond to the gospel.” I had completely missed the point of mercy and welfare. I was no different to the arrogant, unloving priest and Levite, that crossed to the other side of the road so I wouldn’t be tainted by those I esteemed worse off than I.
Attitudes like this deaden our concern for children at risk, vulnerable to illness and disease and the orphaned in need of compassion, care, love, nurture, healing and restoration. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said that if you preach the gospel correctly you are going to be accused of heresy, licentiousness and lawlessness. (Commentary on Romans 6, ch1) Likewise, I would contend that a proper proclamation and application of the gospel by living a life of extravagant service and generosity, such as poverty relief and care of children, will result in accusations of diluting or neglecting the gospel in favour of social action.
If you have a genuine commitment to the gospel wouldn’t you will relish the opportunity to reenact the redemption and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ even it meant taking the risk that some might accuse you of wrong motives?
Mistreatment of vulnerable children was tantamount to the grossest of sins in the Old Testament. It belied a selfish, hateful cruelty that contradicted God’s character, justice, mercy, love and compassion. Describing genuine faith in Christ in the New Testament, James says:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world ~ James 1:27
A fair-dinkum commitment to the gospel, one that is theologically robust and historically orthodox, will be evident in our Churches when we have Christians, who are confident in God’s love for them and are compelled to love others. This is no more evident than when that love is manifest in the protection and nurture of orphans and vulnerable children. Our response needs to go well beyond a token Child Sponsorship or putting Christmas Gifts in a shoebox once a year. Don’t stop doing those things, but do realise that genuine orphan care goes considerably beyond that. How would your Church react, for instance, if a couple who were active members shared their wish to extend or start their family via adoption? Could you conceive that family being supported and prayed for in the same way as your favourite missionary couple off to New Guinea or Vanuatu? Could you see how assisting that couple with the exorbitant fees associated with adoption is an investment in not only caring for an orphan but also serving your brother and sister in Christ for the sake of the gospel? Adopting parents do not get any subsidy from the Government nor can they claim any fees or costs through Health Insurance. What a great way to start.
If you’re a pastor, how often do you talk about adoption? Would you consider doing a series on the doctrine of adoption that concluded with a challenge and call for families in your Church to adopt a child? There are some excellent resources to help you get started. Reclaiming Adoption (free Study Guide) and Adopted for Life are two very good ones.
Please, lets not sit back any longer, lets step forward and lead by example. How, where and when can you respond?
Note: Albert is a husband, adoptive Dad and Pastor of an independent non-denominational Church in Sydney. He has previously served as a volunteer in association with National Adoption Awareness in Australia supporting and promoting adoption awareness and education programs in the Sydney region.
Post Edit Comment: This article was written before the proposal for an Australian Royal Commission into Child Abuse amongst the Catholic Church. That is something that should be welcomed by any Church & Faith Community as an opportunity to protect our children. The Church should lead the way in the care, nurture and flourishing of our children. It is abominable to think she has not. All Christians and Churches should be on the front foot and take steps to cooperate with the Commission and put all possible processes in place for the flourishing of all children.
National Adoption Awareness Week aims to demystify the issues around adoption, raise awareness and acknowledge all parties in adoption. Part of that aim is to dispel the “Myths of Adoption.”
Adoptive parents in Australia identified the top ten myths they have to deal with when talking with family, friends and passers-by in the shopping centre that can’t resist asking “Whose child is that?”
Here’s a list of the top 10 myths along with links to my brief thoughts on each.
2. Adoptive parents are saints (because they saved! the child)
Education, communication and participation of all parties involved is the way forward to de-mythologising adoption and removing the stigma from talking about the real issues met by parents, children, adults, adoptive families and their extended families, networks and community. Have you come across any of these myths? How did you respond?
National Adoption Awareness Week in Australia kicks off today, November 11. Recent discussions surrounding adoption often centre on the struggle of adoptive parents to start or extend their family. However, much more needs to be done to invest with empathy and care for all parties involved in an adoption, particularly the birth parents (especially the mum) and child. This week I’ll post some blog articles dealing with these aspects of adoption.
All children need time and maturity to process and reflect upon the experiences that contribute to their character. How a child of 6 answers a question differs greatly to when they are 26 or 46. Investing in our children, adopted, biological, fostered or wards of the state, with the tools to build and own their identity as confident, fulfilled adults is a prime concern of any parent or guardian. A commitment to the best and highest interests of the child is a commitment to the future of our culture and society. We debate the best way to go about that. Often those debates are charged with intense anger and grief, much of which remains to be addressed justly and compassionately. In this post, I want to introduce you to an adult adoptee and let you hear his side of the story.
Troy Matthews, or Dr. Matthews as he is better known today, was Dean of Students at my Bible College and was also Associate Pastor at my church in 1989/90. Troy was adopted at birth and always spoke openly, positively and generously about his experience. Although I was only 17 years old when I was one of his students and not really thinking about my future family too much at the time, his example influenced me significantly when the time came that my wife and I were considering adopting. His story continues to influence how I talk to my daughter about her adoption.
There are some heart-breaking stories of cases where adoption hasn’t been approached sensitively or lovingly (towards both the child and the birth parents). Unfortunately, some of those stories get a little more air time than the great majority of ones where children and families flourish through their experience with adoption. Troy is a fantastic example of a man who not only flourished, but is now helping others flourish also.
Together for Adoption recently published Troy’s story:
Troy was born to a young mother in Snyder, Texas, and because of the closed adoption he doesn’t know much more than that about his fraternal parents. Simultaneously to this woman’s pregnancy, a young couple had battled several miscarriages and were urged by a local pastor in Snyder to consider adoption – particularly the adoption of Troy. They quickly realized that this was their “gift from God.”
Today, Troy puts it in his own words, “They were his gift from God.” …
Dr. Matthews is now a professor of “Contemporary Issues”, a course required by all majors at Liberty. The subject matter directly approaches one’s world view – affirming a Biblical world view and also applying it. Topics such as adoption, abortion, and a Christian’s moral responsibility to such topics and understanding of absolute truth’s found in Scripture. These courses are designed to affirm a believers responsibility to the world around them.
If you’re in Australia and considering investing in adoption, National Adoption Awareness Week can give you the starting point. Click on the link for your state to find out more. If you have already been involved with Adoption there are many opportunities for networking and support with other families and adoptees.
Troy is “a champion, … reinvesting in others to be young champions as well. – just as (he) was invested in.” How are you investing in children and their families?
Sydney will host the first Australian National Adoption Awareness WeekSummit, focusing on a range of issues confronting the millions of orphaned and abandoned children, with an Australian and Global context.A panel of special guests including Deborra-lee Furness from New York, will debate the complexities, propose solutions and set goals regarding this global humanitarian issue.The summit will take place on Monday 7th November at a venue in the CBD (more details to follow) between 7.30am and 9.30am.
If you would like be informed please email NAAW at email@example.com
Although I often make ‘tongue-in-cheek’ criticisms of our northern friends living in the so-called ‘land of the free and home of the brave’, I was impressed by the Wall Street Journal article about adoption. It is in part a encouragement (if not endorsement of) to John McCain to take a stand on matters relating to adoption as an opportunity to promote “adoption is part of a holistic sanctity-of-human-life ethic”. However it reveals that the anti-adoption philosophy so entrenched in Australian society is prevalent also in America.
The opening paragraph is something that Australian authorities should seriously consider:
In 1993, the McCains adopted a daughter from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Bangladesh, and the senator has co-sponsored legislation to aid adoption, including measures that would provide tax credits for expenses and would remove barriers to interracial and interethnic adoption.
The self-appointed politically-correct authorities here in Australia, whilst claiming to have the “best interests of the child in mind” when managing and screening applicants for adopting also have onerous and obstructive policies. In our experience, rather than encouraging and promoting adoption as a valid means of creating or extending a family, they to seek to prevent as many as possible from adopting. Thereby denying orphaned / relinquished / abandoned children the world over the opportunities to grow up in a loving, nurturing, family environment. The result of their argument is that it is better for the child to remain in their own culture and continue to suffer a life of poverty, slavery, abuse, neglect etc.
The WSJ article, as also alluded to by Al Mohler yesterday, also mentions the contradiction of these same authorities when it comes to dealing with racial discrimination. The do-right-ers who want a society of tolerance, peace and harmony are the same pundits who regularly oppose trans-racial and cross cultural adoptions. Quoting a Ms Rosati:
“Both are saying the same thing, ‘Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.’ And both pretend they’re just being realistic about racial discrimination.”
Join the cause Defend the orphan and help all children reach their God given potential!
This question is complex and volatile. There is a tendency to be over simplistic when talking about adoption using terms and phrases like “saving” the orphans. However it is important to distinguish between advocating adoption as a vital means to helping and serving children in need of a permanent family and “saving” them. Lets be clear about this, there’s only ONE saviourand it’s not me nor is it any other adoptive parent, advocate or ambassador.
Kristen Howerton has a lengthy blog post about this and she deals with the issue with substance and sensitivity.
I don’t like the savior narratives applied to adoptive parents. I don’t like people telling me I’m amazing just because I’ve adopted. Because I’m not. I am a very human mom who is sometimes shrill and selfish and impatient and just plain mean. I did not “save” my adopted kids.
I am very careful to never give my adopted children the feeling that there is some extra gratitude required from them. They are a part of my family just like my daughters. They have every right to be ungrateful, or resent me, or wish that they had never been adopted. I don’t talk to them about where they came from as if they needed to be saved. So on the one hand, I do take care to avoid the savior meme.
Citing a detailed example from Haiti arising from the recent turmoil caused the earthquakes she urges readers, it’s time to sit up and take notice:
This is a long post. I hope you will read the whole thing, and I hope you will read it without judgment of the people involved. People who serve in Haiti face the awful task, every day, of how many people they can help. Orphanages are overcrowded simply because some very good people have a hard time turning away one more helpless child. If this outrages you, then think about what part YOU can play. There can be no outrage at people who serve in Haiti, as we sit at our computer screens in our comfortable homes in America. But you need to know that this is real.