Do you feel the tide turning?
When I began to speak boldly about corruption in international adoption a year ago, I faced a lot of opposition. The adoption and orphan care movement was growing quickly within the Christian community, as thousands of families and churches where embracing God’s heart for orphans. At the same time, there was a lot of fear that talking about corruption in countries like Uganda or Ethiopia would lead to these countries closing to international adoption.
But I believe something is changing.
More families are telling the truth about their adoption experiences. Leaders in the Christian adoption and orphan care movement are calling us to question what we’re doing and to consider what will make a lasting difference. While I still see the adoption movement as a bit of a flood that has the potential to devastate vulnerable communities in the developing world, I think the tide is changing. I think a growing number of us who take seriously what the Bible has to say about orphans and widows are questioning whether what we are doing is helping without hurting.
I believe we still have a long way to go.
Every time I see a 147 million shirt or read an adoption agency website about 163 million orphans or listen to a sermon about the orphan crisis, I want to scream wait! There are millions of orphans in the world today – but roughly 9 out of 10 of them are living with their families. These families are often at risk of poverty and injustice. As Christians, we’re called to orphans and widows – to vulnerable families. When Christians think “orphan crisis” their first response should be supporting kids with their mothers and fathers. Empowering these families to have a path out of poverty. Fighting for justice and against corruption. Protecting and providing for the least of these in response to the grace and mercy we have received from our adopted Father.
So until every Christian grasps that living out James 1:27 means supporting families first, I will keep speaking the truth.
I am thankful that I am not alone on this journey. So for the rest of this post, I wanted to share with you a few things I have read and watched. I hope you will find these as helpful, thought-provoking and heart-breaking as I have.
- Mercy, Mercy. A heartbreaking story of an Ethiopian family and a Danish family connected by adoption. Please, please, please if you are considering international adoption, watch this documentary. Nearly every family that has adopted from Africa can see something of their own story in this film. It is raw and transparent and hard. It should lead us all to question deeply when adoption is truly the best choice for a child.
- Red flags wave over Uganda’s adoption boom. Article and news report about international adoption in Uganda from CNN
- Lots of helpful posts from The Rileys. This week alone, Mark and Keren have shared a thoughtful story from an adult adoptee, a painful story from an adoption that failed as a result of corruption, and their reflections on the Pepperdine Conference about Intercountry Adoption: Orphan Rescue or Child Trafficking?
- A Place of Mercy: The OTHER side of orphan care. I met blogger Erika while we were both “stuck” in Uganda in 2011. We both spent months in Uganda living in orphanages with the children we were hoping to adopt. For both of us, this meant seeing a side of adoption and orphan care that is invisible when you go on a short-term mission trip or a quick adoption trip. Erika’s experience has compelled her to ask some terrific questions:
What if poverty did not decide whether or not a child became an orphan?
What if parents who love their children are able to raise them and watch them grow into adult hood?
What if parents were able to feed and clothe their kids and able to send them to school?
What if we could keep kids from becoming orphans!
Wherever you are at in your journey, I hope these resources will be helpful. For those of you who share my passion for reforming international adoption, keep up the good fight. For others who are consider adoption for the first time, I hope you will not be overwhelmed. I am not against international adoption. I love adoption and I feel incredibly blessed to be an adoptive mother. My hope is that all this spilled ink will empower you with information to make the best decision for your family – and to do what is just and good.
If you are wondering why things have been quiet here at Family Hope Love, it is because I started a new job in January. I am leading Online Marketing for People Tree, an ethical fashion brand based in London. Between learning my new job and caring for my family, I have not had as much time as usual to devote to this space. But going forward, I am ready to engage more deeply with the growing tribe of Christians who are passionate about adoption and orphan care.
Thank you for reading and joining me on this journey.
My friend Holly is one of the few fearless voices in the adoption blog world. Holly and her family lived and served in Democratic Republic of Congo for four years. During this time, they supported an orphanage in Eastern DRC called Tumaini – or “Reeds of Hope”. While living in DRC, Holly adopted two children and began facilitating international adoptions from DRC. As Holly was working with adoptive families, she was also becoming more aware of the poverty faced by families living in DRC. She began to ask herself some hard questions – and ultimately stopped facilitating adoptions.
Since moving back to the United States, Holly has continued to be outspoken about the truth about adoption from Democratic Republic of Congo. She courageously shares her blog with families who have seen and experienced corruption first-hand. She listens to the stories of families who have been threatened by their adoption agencies. She faces all sorts of criticism from adoption advocates who wish she would just shut up. But she keeps telling the truth.
If you are not familiar with Holly’s blog – Alama ya Kitumaini which means “Signs of Hope” – you need to make yourself a cup of tea and pay her a visit.
I suggest you start with this post about Holly’s journey – her moment of truth. When she began facilitating adoptions from Tumaini, she struggled with the question of whether or not the children were adoptable. All of the babies at Tumaini had living fathers and had experienced the death of their mothers during or after childbirth. After a little more research, Holly discovered that the babies could meet the definition of orphan under United States immigration law as long as their fathers were unable to care for them – and had relinquished their rights in writing. But something about this definition bothered her. In Holly’s words:
Maybe for some of you it isn’t obvious, because it was certainly clear that the fathers in both cases were “unable to care for the child”. What was bothering me was what was missing from that definition.
It was love. Love was the missing part of the definition. Even though extremely poor, those two fathers LOVED their babies. And had every intention of coming back to get their babies one day. Most of the fathers and families that drop off their babies have that same intention, it was love that motivated the action to bring the babies to the orphanage in the first place because they were doing the only thing they could to keep them alive.
Yes, they are unable to “care” for their children and yes, if you asked them if they want their babies to go to the U.S. or europe to be adopted (i.e. to be given food, healthcare, education, advantages they would never dream of being able to provide for their children), most would say yes. If you asked them “can you care for your child?” And then followed that question up with, “because if you can’t, your child can be raised by a loving family in America. He/she can be adopted. Do you want this?”. The answer would be adoption.
The choice was “adoption to the states” or “home with you in desperate poverty”. When adoption is the only alternative offered to destitute poverty with the family, I began to wonder if there was really a choice at all. In fact, I began to feel the injustice of such a request…
Click here to read the rest of Holly’s post. If you are thinking about adopting from Africa – especially Democratic Republic of Congo – take time to read everything!
The questions that Holly raises in this post are so important. As Christians, asking the question “is it legal?” is not enough.
Sadly I know more than a few Christian families who blatently disgregard the law when it comes to international adoption. They do not care if a child meets the legal definition of “orphan” – and they are willing to do almost anything in order to “save” a child.
But even following the law is not enough. We are called to something higher. We must ask deeper, better questions. I believe there have been thousands of situations in Uganda, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo where desperate mothers or fathers have placed their children for adoption because they felt they had no other choice.
While I believe in principle that a mother, father and extended family should have the right to choose what is best for their children within the boundaries of the law - it is not really a choice if the only alternative to adoption is desperate poverty – or death.
Imagine a family living in a village in rural Africa. The parents are young, poor, struggling to care for their first child. When their second child is born, there is not enough to go around. The mother is starving and her body does not make enough milk to feed the baby. Nearby someone is building an orphanage and a school. When missionaries from the orphanage visit the family’s home and offer to take the baby – who is severely malnourished – the parents say yes. They are desperate. They love their child, but feel they have no other choice.
And then a year later, a couple on a short-term mission trip visit the orphanage where the now one year old girl is living. They meet her – and they fall in love. The assume that because she is living in an orphanage, she must be an orphan who is available for international adoption. They begin the process to adopt her. Somewhere along the way, they discover the child has a family, that she was abandoned because of poverty. Now they face a difficult decision.
What should they do next? Should they fight to bring the child home? Or should they reach out to the child’s biological family? Should they hire an investigator to figure out whether the family would care for the child if they could? What do you think?
My last post has definitely struck a nerve.I am thankful to see more and more families truly wrestling through the issues with international adoption. Many of you have said something very important – this is not all black and white. Sometimes it is hard to know what is best for a child, even when we are willing to surrender our own desires.
As I am writing about some hard issues, can I begin with a bit of a disclaimer? Please do not to judgment as you look at other people’s adoption cases. There is often more than meets the eye – and often adoptive families choose not to tell the whole story because they are protecting their child’s privacy. More than anything my hope is that as you read this blog you would examine your own heart. If you are in the adoption process, I hope that you would strive to be in a place emotionally and spiritually that you can sacrifice your own desires to do what is best for a child or family. At the same time, when you see injustice, do not be quiet. If you know of an adoption agency, lawyer, ministry, orphanage or leader involved in corruption, speak up. As far as I am concerned, if you have accurate information and especially if it’s your personal experience, proclaim it from the mountain tops. The culture of silence in the adoptive community is like a cancer.
If you see a family that may be heading down the path of escalating commitment I wrote about this weekend, find a way to speak the truth in love. How should you respond if you see a family doing something unethical, corrupt or even illegal in their adoption? The Bible calls us to first examine our own hearts and then to go to one another – in humility, love and grace – to point out wrongdoing. If the person will not listen to us, we should go with two or three witnesses. If they still will not listen, then we should consider taking steps to hold them accountable – be speaking publically or this contacting authorities in the United States or Uganda. Some of you may disagree with me on this. There is a ton of fear in the adoption community – a worry that if we talk about corruption more countries will close. But if we are never honest about the corruption, how will we ever fight for justice and change?
With my little disclaimer out of the way, I want to introduce a new series of posts on Family Hope Love. In this series, I will be linking to other bloggers who have shared Moments of Truth in their adoptions. I’d also love to open up this space if you want to share your story.
What is a moment of truth? It is that point in the adoption process where the adoptive family realizes there is more to the story. Often adoption agencies, orphanages, lawyers and government officials don’t tell the whole truth – and adoptive parents are left picking up the pieces. Sometimes we discover the truth about our child’s history before we travel – other times it is not until we’re already home. No matter when we discover the truth, we have critically important decisions to make. Do we continue trying to adopt a child? Do we switch to a different adoption agency? Do we stay connected to the biological family? Do we contact the authorities about the corruption we experienced?
Our first moment of truth happened more than two years ago. We had a referal for a baby girl in Uganda. When we first heard about the child, we had been told her mother and father were married and dying of AIDS and that she was living in an orphanage. Our hearts were broken for her. We fell in love with a picture of a beautiful baby girl – and the idea that she would join our family. As we rushed to finish our dossier, we received horrible news. The little girl had died of an infection from a small burn on her hand. We were devastated. Once the orphanage had nothing more to lose, however, we heard the rest of the story. The little girl had never been living in an orphanage. We had been given a referal for her while she was still living with her mother. The mother was not married – nor was she dying. She was young and had been raped. She was scared, poor, vulnerable. This moment of truth allowed our family to see that our adoption agency was too inexperienced. We switched to adopting independently – a better choice in Uganda at the time (though not anymore). We have had several other moments of truth over the last few years. But for now,
I want to share this space with my friend Marci who blogs at She Can Laugh. Marci just wrote up the story of how they chose to walk away from a little boy they hoped to adopt after they found out he had a family:
Can I share a little story with you?
I have never met an adoptive parent who began the time-consuming, heart-wrenching, wallet-emptying process of international adoption with a desire to traffic a child.
Our family adopted for a few simple reasons. We wanted one more child and could not get pregnant again. We believed we had been adopted by God and that adoption was a demonstration of the gospel. We thought there was an orphan crisis that was particularly acute in Africa - our hearts were broken for the millions of orphans in Uganda.
Nearly every adoptive family I know had similar motivations. We love children, we want to help a child in need.
But something ugly often happens in the adoption process. The sincere desire to adopt in order to help an orphan morphs into a consuming need to adopt – to bring a child home at almost any cost.
There is a growing movement among Evangelicals in America challenging every Christian family and church to do something about the orphan crisis. Thousands of churches are launching orphan care ministries. Millions of Christians are going on short-term mission trips. And a growing number of families are considering adoption.
Sadly year after year the number of international adoptions is decreasing. More countries are closing their borders to international adoption in response to corruption or political pressure. Fewer countries are open to international adoption just as more families are beginning the adoption process.
As a result, there is intense, growing pressure on countries such as Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Adoption agencies scramble to start new programs. On the ground they fight to partner with orphanages – and to find adoptable children. In many African countries, corruption is the status quo. It is difficult to get anything done without paying a bribe here or there. Money talks. Soon lawyers, orphanages and government officials involved in adoption realize that it is a lucrative business.
They see no harm in talking a desperately poor family out of a child. They give in to corruption, rationalizing that the child would have died in Africa, that their life will be so much better in America.
Imagine a naive family walking into this mess, completely unaware of the ends to which many adoption agencies will go to place a child for adoption. Somewhere in the adoption process, they begin to notice a few inconsistencies.
They realize the lawyer working on their case has a reputation for being corrupt.
They hear that the orphanage where their child is living has been neglecting the children while the orphanage director is living comfortably.
The day before they go to court, they discover the child who they believe is an orphan has a mother and father, siblings and grandparents.
In court, they hear the only reason the family cannot care for the child is poverty.
They begin to wonder if the family even understands what adoption means.
But at this point, they are too deep in. For months, they have been falling in love with a child they believed was an orphan. And now he or she is with them, in their arms. They cannot imagine letting the child go.
And on top of this, everyone at home is behind their adoption. Friends and family have prayed and given generously. There have been baby showers and there will be a big welcome at the airport. Their church supports the orphanage where the little girl was living. The family cannot imagine disappointing everyone at home.
And so they ignore their consciences. They rationalize the corruption. They come up with Christian-sounding excuses for trafficking a child. When United States officials investigate and discover the child was never an orphan, the family fights back. They hire lawyers and vow fight to the bitter end.
They rally the support of their friends and family, church and community. People write their senators and tell the media. Soon their story is everywhere. They call the Embassy evil, argue the United States government hates orphans. They call the laws designed to protect children from trafficking “red tape”.
And now they are in too deep. They have walked down a path of escalating commitment. They began the process to adopt full of love, faith and a sincere desire to welcome an orphan into their family. But somewhere along the road, they lost sight of what is truly important.
Sadly, this is not just an imaginary story. This is a true story – a story that is repeated with slightly different details over and over again. Many families who adopt from Uganda, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo have walked down a similar path. Somewhere in the adoption process they noticed corruption – and they closed their eyes.
Out of fear or pride they looked the other way. Out of cowardice or arrogance they trafficked a child and destroyed a vulnerable family.
It takes courage to ask the hard questions – and to walk away if you discover that the child you love does not need a new family. It is brave to tell the truth, especially when adoption agencies who profit from corruption will go to great lengths to silence families.
Friends, I will keep beating this drum as long as it takes. It is time for the Christian adoption and orphan care movement to wake up to the reality of corruption – and the truth of Scripture. The Bible is crystal clear that exploiting the poor, destroying families, paying bribes and denying justice are sin. The Bible is also clear that we are called to protect and provide for orphans and widows - and the reality in the world today as in the world when the Bible was penned is that most orphans are living with widows and that these families are vulnerable to exploitation. Protecting and providing for these families – preventing children from being abandoned - must become a priority. It is time for change.
I serve on the Advisory Committee for A Child’s Voice, a non-profit that advocates for the rights of children in Uganda and across Africa. Today I had the honor of guest posting on the ACV website, telling a story you need to read…
Imagine you are a mother of eight children. You are a widow. You are HIV positive. You live in a wood shack in a slum in a city in Africa.
How would you earn money to feed yourself or your children? How would you survive?
Today we want to tell you the story of a mother named Maggie and her daughter Rose. Maggie is a mother of eight children. Her youngest child is a baby named Rose. Maggie is HIV positive. She is a widow. She and a few of her children live in a slum in Kampala.
In order to provide for her family, Maggie cooks and sells food at a shack several hundred meters from her home until midnight. She leaves her young children, including her baby Rose, with their big sister at night while she works. This is the only way the family can survive.
About three months ago, Maggie was selling food late at night to provide for her family when tragedy struck her home. Rose , then just six months old, was home with her ten year old sister. Their house – a small, wooden shack – burst into flames. Maggie’s older daughter cried out for help and escaped being burned. Baby Rose, however, was engulfed in the flames.
The neighbors pulled the baby out of the fire, but the shack burned to the ground.
Rose survived the fire, but she is badly hurt.
She has scars from burns all over her body.
She has lost most of her fingers and all her toes.
Rose cannot close her eyes when she sleeps because her eyelids have fused open.
Her face was badly burned and her mouth is deformed. As a result, she can only drink liquids.
To read the rest of the story and find out how you can help, click through to A Child’s Voice.
Do you have a heart for orphans? Are you a family who has adopted – or who feels called to adopt? Are you a Christian pastor or leader who wants to start an orphan care ministry?
In recent years, Christians have awoken to God’s heart for the Fatherless. We have been told there is an orphan crisis – that there are 163 million orphans in the world today. Our hearts are broken, imaginging millions of children growing up with no mother, no father, no one to say I love you, you are mine.
When Christians hear about the orphan crisis, we want to do something to help. Some families adopt. Others go on a mission trip to visit orphans. But most Christians who want to get involved in orphan care focus on building or supporting an orphanage – or sponsoring an orphan. On one hand, we know orphanages are not good for kids. We know orphanages have largely been replaced by foster care in the United States.
But we assume that communities in the developing world are unwilling or unable – as a result of poverty we cannot imagine – to care for the growing number of orphans. We think there are no alternatives to orphanages. And so we pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into buildings. We send missionaries. We hire staff. We think this is the only way to care for orphans in places like Haiti or Uganda.
But is it possible to care for orphans without orphanages?
The first thing we need to understand – and the way Christians talk about the orphan crisis typically misses this truth – is that most of the world’s orphans are already living in families. I’ve written about the global orphan crisis before. Remember most of the world’s orphans have families – and that these families are often vulnerable to poverty and exploitation. So whatever we do for the sake of James 1:27, remember widows and orphans. Not just orphans.
If you are a Christian pastor, leader, church planter or missionary who is interested in starting an orphan care ministry, this is especially important for you. There are alternatives to building orphanages that are less expensive, more sustainable and better for the children, families, churches and communities we’re called to serve.
- Give women access to medical care during pregnancy and birth to prevent children being orphaned when their mothers die in childbirth. A safe birth kit from Mercy for Mamas costs just $7. Caring for a child in an orphanage costs upwards of $1000 a year.
- Set up a savings circle to give a community of vulnerable families access to capitol. Want to learn more about savings circles? Check out the work of Hope International.
- Empower a woman to start a business by giving her a microenterprise loan. In many countries, if you can empower a woman to make about $100 a month, she can provide safe housing, food, medical care and an education to her family. Check out Kiva.
- Sponsor a child in a family, not in an orphanage. Make sure the ministry you sponsor through is committed to sustainable development and works through local churches or communities. I think Compassion has a solid approach.
- Chickens, pigs, ducks, oh my! In many rural communities in the developing world, one of the most effective ways to help families earn a sustainable income is by helping them farm and raise animals. Read about the work of Food for the Hungry.
- Buy beautiful, handmade goods from artisans around the world. Many of the artisan groups Noonday Collection works with in Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and around the world give families a path out of poverty. This prevents children from being abandoned.
- Encourage Christians all around the world to get involved in foster care and adoption. The Orphan Sunday movement led by Christian Alliance for Orphans is challenging belivers everywhere to care for orphans in families instead of institutions. It has already had an incredible impact in countries like Ukraine, bringing together churches and challenging thousands of families to get involved in orphan care and adoption.
- Plant or partner with a church intead of building an orphanage. Come alongside this church to encourage the local Christians to protect and provide for the orphans and widows in their community. Churches can play an important role in developing networks of foster care. Read about Casa Viva. Churches can also provide financial support to families who are called to care for orphans.
- Challenge men to step up to be husbands and fathers who protect and provide for women and children. This is seldom talked about as a part of orphan care, but much of the brokeness at the root of the orphan crisis is caused by men abdicating their Biblical responsibility. Only Jesus can change the hearts of the fathers. Watch this video from Sojourn, a church plant in Uganda.
- Protect orphans and widows from exploitation. Child trafficking, slavery, forced prostitution, illegal property seizure…Christians are called to defend orphans and widows. One of the ministries that does this with excellence is International Justice Mission.
If you are thinking about starting an orphan care ministry, would you consider these alternatives?
What do you think can make a lasting difference in the lives of orphans and vulnerable families in the developing world?
I am writing in much greater depth about orphanages and orphan care in my book, In Defense of the Fatherless, which will hopefully be published in early 2013. If you want to learn more about these issues, please subscribe to follow Family Hope Love!
Last night I could hardly sleep.
I was thinking about mothers and babies in Africa. About young women who face difficult choices and impossible odds. And about how the simplist of things – a sterile razor blade, a bar of soap, a warm blanket - can mean the difference between life and death for a mother or her child.
And so I lay there thinking about how less than $10 could save the life of a mother and her baby.
Last week I wrote a blog post about The Only Way to End the Orphan Crisis. As I am finishing up the research for In Defense of the Fatherless, this is one topic that I am still studying.
It is a topic very close to my heart. If I had been pregnant in Africa instead of the United States, I might not have my boys. I experienced preterm labor in all of my pregnancies. I spent months on medication and bed rest. Two of my boys were born prematurely. My youngest weighed just 3 pounds when he was born 2 months early. Would Zephan have survived if he were born in Uganda? Sadly, the answer is probably no.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
What works to save the lives of mothers and babies in the developing world?
I feel like this could be a book all on its own.
But here are a few places to start.
Grab a box of tissues and read about Kupendwa Ministries. Started by a young woman, Amy, who adopted from Uganda – and then moved there to make a difference – Kupendwa cares for pregnant teenagers who are in desperate circumstances.
And then spend $7 t0 buy a Mama Kit to help a woman in Uganda have a safe birth.
If you want to go deeper, read Half the Sky. This book is about injustice against women in the world today. It is incredibly challenging and helpful.
One thing Mercy for Mamas and Kupendwa Ministries have in common is that they were started by women who adopted and then felt a call to do more. I think this is important. There is such incredible passion and enthusiasm in the Christian adoption movement. Families and churches are making huge sacrifices for adoption. Can we find a way to translate some of this passion for orphans into a passion for preventing children from becoming orphans?
Do you know of any other ministries or organizations that are doing an amazing job caring for vulnerable mothers and babies?
There are 163 million orphans in the world today.
163 million children who have experienced the death of their mother or father. Or both.
Most of the world’s orphans still live with their families and in their communities. But the loss of a parent makes a family vulnerable to poverty and injustice. This is why the Bible calls Christians to provide and protect for orphans and widows – often together.
Christians are embracing God’s heart for orphans – especially for adoption. I think adoption is a beautiful demonstration of the gospel. We adopted Ella and we are adopting Lana because we were first adopted into God’s family. But adoption can never end the orphan crisis. Building orphanages and children’s villages can never end the orphan crisis.
Even if the nations of the world made the least of these a priority – and found a way for every fatherless child to be adopted today – thousands of children would be orphaned tomorrow.
Poverty and malnutrition.
Abuse and neglect.
Exploitation and slavery.
Statistically more than 1,000 women – perhaps as many as 3,000 – will die in childbirth today. And tomorrow. And the next day. All of this adding up to hundreds of thousands of women who will die this year.
And most of these deaths are preventable.
These women die not because pregnancy is dangerous but because they lack access to medical care. There are not enough midwives or doctors. There are no sterile razor blades. There is no medication. There are not enough blankets. Gloves. Soap. Clean water.
In many cases poverty is not the whole answer. The deeper truth is that many of the governments of the world do not care. They prioritze government spending on fighter jets over spending on midwives.
This should not be.
Take a few minutes to read this article about maternal mortality in Uganda. Let me know what you think. This is one of the issues I am thinking through and writing about in my book and I would really love to hear from those of you who read my blog.
I’m thankful I am only one of many who are passionate about reforming international adoption and orphan care. As this blog continues to grow, I hope to become a resource for my readers who want to learn more about the orphan crisis and how to respond. From time to time, I will share relevant, helpful articles and blog posts. Here are a few things I think you should read…
Adoption from Africa: Concern over dramatic rise article from the BBC. An overview of the issues around the growing numbers of adoptions of children from Africa to America and Europe. This article is written from a worldview that I don’t necessarily agree with – basically that a child’s growing up in their culture and country of origin may be more important than growing up in a family. Nevertheless, the article raises some important questions.
The New Faces of International Adoption? by blogger and adoptive mama Salem. A compelling post about why more families should consider adopting kids who are older or special needs. Salem adopted a little girl from Uganda has no arms or legs…but she is totally inspirational. This little girl is beautiful and will have a very full life as a result of having a family. You all know I am critical of corruption in adoption – but this is because at the end of the day, I believe international adoption can be a miracle for kids who truly need it. I am passionate about creating an adoption system that actually finds families for kids!
In Our Backyard is a post written by A Child’s Voice, an advocacy group I volunteer with. ACV is led by Freda, a Ugandan attorney who used to work at the US Embassy. Recently Freda spent about a week in a slum that has become popular for international adoption. What this post reveals is heart breaking. Dozens of families in this community have placed children for adoption because they were approached by people who encouraged them that their children would have a better life if they were adopted. While this study was done in just one slum in Uganda, I believe it represents what happened in Guatemala, Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal – and what continues to happen in countries such as Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
What else have you read about adoption or orphan care recently? Please link to any other resources in the comments. Make sure you subscribe to Family Hope Love and please grab my button from the sidebar to share this important information on your blog. Together, I hope we can start a movement to redeem global orphan care and adoption.
Over the last few weeks, I went to the Orphan Summit in California and then eventually to Uganda to do research for the book I am writing. In both of these places, I had the opportunity to visit and interview people who are passionate about orphans and adoption in Uganda.
In conversation after conversation, however, I witnessed something ugly.
Discord, slander, gossip.
In conversation after conversation, someone had something ugly to say about someone else. Over a couple of days in Uganda, I felt like I was caught in this crazy mess of everyone tearing everyone else down.
My heart in writing this post is not to point out what any one person is doing wrong, but rather to ask why we – the community of families who are passionate about adoption and orphans in Uganda – are so critical and bitter? Why do we always assume the worst? Why are we so quick to point out the faults in others? Or to take credit where it is not due?
I refuse to do or say anything in this post that will make the gossip mill spin. But seriously, assuming the worst about others who care passionately about orphans in Uganda is not going to be helpful. As my daddy always said, when you assume you make an ass out of u and me. Sorry to be a bit profane. But seriously...
For those of you who are Christians, this is especially important. The world is watching. Literally. Some families in the Uganda adoption community are not Christians and believe me when I say that they are disgusted with what they see. Nothing about Christians gossiping, slandering and tearing one another down is attractive to non-Christians.
This post is not pointed at any one person. I think we are all complicit. Right here, right now I want to confess that at times, I have been critical and bitter. I have assumed the worst about situations or people. I have not guarded my words carefully enough. I have been judgmental and just plain unkind. I am sorry. This is public repentance. I ask for your forgiveness.
I also want to challenge you to search your heart. The gossip, slander, discord, lies and accusations are just plain ugly. Sinful. And wrong. I’m begging you to consider apologizing to people you may have hurt. If you have concerns about a family, ministry, agency or anyone else involved in adoptions or orphan care in Uganda, deal with it directly. Refuse to participate in the rumor mill.
Do you know what is crazy? Pretty much everyone I met with over the last few weeks wants the same thing.
We all care about orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda. We all agree that children need families. We all agree that institutions are harmful to children. We all want to see more children adopted by loving families in Uganda. We all believe international adoption is the best choice for children who truly need it.
We may disagree on how to get there, but we’re headed in the same direction.
So why are we treating each other like enemies? We aren’t we working together for reform?
Why aren’t we doing everything we can to:
Support vulnerable mothers and families so that children are not orphaned
Encourage more Ugandan families to adopt
End corrupt adoption practices, such as creating false documents, bribing authorities or “finding” children for adoption in slums or villages
Make sure no child is placed in an orphanage or for adoption without a careful investigations into what is best for the child
To make orphanages better for the kids who have no other choice
To get kids out of orphanages whenever possible
Encourage the officials, both in the Ugandan government and at the US Embassy, to do their jobs carefully, knowing that these people are responsible for protecting vulnerable children
Encourage international adoption for children who cannot be placed domestically
These things are not in conflict. Children need families. Period. It is unacceptable to take children from poor families and to make them look like orphans because we have what my friend calls “brown-baby-itis”. But it is also unacceptable to deny a true orphan the opportunity to have a family because of a philosophy that international adoption should be the last resort.
Somewhere between these extremes we have a lot of common ground, where we can work together for the good of the children and families in Uganda. Until there are thousands of families in Uganda lining up to adopt, there will be a need for international adoption. This need is primarily for families who can adopt older, HIV positive and special needs children. So let’s do everything we can to support vulnerable families, to encourage domestic adoption and to encourage international adoption.
Let’s stop fighting with one another.
Let’s start fighting together.
We can accomplish so much more if we fight together than if we tear one another down. Some of us may be called to adopt. Others to advocate. Some may be called to support vulnerable families. Others to encouraging resettlement. Some to reforming orphanages. Others to encouraging domestic adoption in Uganda. Some to fighting injustice and poverty. Others to providing access to health care. None of us are called to gossip, slander or discord. We are not called to tear one another town. We are all called to tell the truth, but we can do this with wisdom, love, discretion.
Please, please share this with other families involved in the Uganda adoption community. My hope is that together we can change so that we can work together for the good of orphans and vulnerable families in Uganda.