Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In Defence of My International Adoption

Dear Kathryn Joyce,
     I read the interview that you did on NPR about your new book, Child Catchers, Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.  While I have not read the book, the interview gave me enough of an idea of how you feel on the topic that I am compelled to comment.  I find your views on Christianity and adoption to be a narrow minded and unfair assessment.
     I'm fully aware that there are bad people out there who are taking advantage of the "business" of orphans, but I'm offended that in one fell swoop you demonize the entire Christian adoption community. You said, "Evangelicals felt that they had kind of unfairly lost a claim to the good works side of Christianity, the social gospel, the helping the poor." I'd like to clarify three things: 1) Christians don't believe in the concept of good works (it's true),  2) are you saying that there's something wrong with helping the poor? and 3) the adoption process is so grueling that even if you began it thinking you're doing something "good" or "nice," you will in no way complete it with those shallow sentiments.
     I admit that when we began our adoption process, we were very naive about the intricacies of it.  We absolutely went into it blindly, having not done any research about the agency we were using.  I hadn't ever heard of child trafficking for the purpose of adoption and didn't think about the fact that "orphans" could still have living parents.  It wasn't until AFTER we'd accepted our referral that I read There's No Me Without You, a very informative, and beautiful book about the orphan crisis in Ethiopia.  
     One thing you touched on was that the family giving the child up may not completely understand what they're doing; "It is not uncommon, says Joyce, for these orphans to come from caring families who have a different understanding of adoption than Americans do: They agree to send their children away, thinking it's temporary — for a better education and opportunities — and that the child will eventually return."  This is true, and wrong, and should absolutely be stopped.  I know a family who believes the children they adopted were trafficked.  By the time they realized it, the birth parent had already given up his rights as the legal parent and the courts had declared the American couple the legal parents.  It's been terrible from every angle and both families became victims of a crime. But what percentage of adoptions does this happen in? "Bad" people take advantage of "good" people ALL the time in all walks of life.
     The truth is, the world is busting with children who are living in horrible conditions with or without parents.  It is not hard to find pictures on line of institutionalized children, starving children, neglected and abused children; all children who need a new life and a new beginning.  There are REAL children who absolutely NEED to be adopted.  There are people who are aware of the needs of these children and chose to do something about it by adopting.  There are more people who know the need is real and chose to ignore the problem and continue on with life as usual.
     I love children and could have birthed ten of them myself.  Our family chose to increase the size of our family through adoption instead of birth.  We chose international adoption because it's a much less complicated process than working with the US foster system (my views on foster/adopt have changed over time, but I'll save that for another day), but in either case, no matter what country these children are from, they need to be rescued (a word you use in a negative way, but in fact is a wonderful thing to the one in need of being rescued).
     We did not adopt because we felt pressured to by our religious beliefs.  I do not feel that there was anything unethical about the adoption of our children, and while my heart aches for the birth mother of my children, she is one of millions of single mothers in the world who didn't have a way to care for her children.  I will not hate myself for the fact that my children's birth country is a mess and offers no relief to its poor.  It's a sad situation that needs fixing, but I cannot fix an entire country.
     I know many adoptive mom's (including myself) wish their children could have remained with the birth parents.  None of us wanted to unnecessarily take children from their country and family. I have my own birth children, I know what it feels like to love a child.  Kathryn, instead of writing a book about how Christians are stealing children, why not join one of the hundreds of non-profit groups who pour their hearts and souls into helping those who simply can't feed their children? Work with those who are helping desolate mom's and dad's so their kids don't need to be adopted.
     Unfortunately, I don't foresee a time when the world will have no suffering.  As hard as we may try, the poor will always exist.  Those of us who are financially able to take in the children of those who aren't, to raise them, nurture them, and love them as our own, should not have to apologize for what we have done and are doing.


  1. Great post Erika, I haven't read Kathryn Joyce's book but I don't think I will ever read it. I know you and I know how much love you have for Harmon and Hiyab. Those kids radiate happiness because they are in a happy place.


  2. This really is a great post.