Prior to doing any sort of serious research, I naively believed that adoption was “the answer” to the global orphan crisis. I heard there were some 143 million orphans around the world so naturally, I thought adoption was the solution to the problem.
Oh ye of little knowledge (me).
As I dug a bit deeper, I learned that most orphans have at least one living parent. That’s right – they have a mother or a father who are still alive. And the others who have lost both of their parents? They often have grandparents or aunts and uncles or a close family friend.
Knowing this, why are there so many orphans? The ugly truth is: Poverty. Their parent or extended family simply could not afford to raise them. In many cases, they knew that their child was at risk of dying of starvation, disease, etc. and giving them up was done out of desperate circumstances.
Recently, I stumbled upon an adoption website that was advertising the possibility to adopt 4 girls from the Philippines. These were sisters ages 8-16. The reason they were being offered for adoption? Poverty. Their parents could no longer afford their basic needs. Wow. I come from a family of 4 girls – it broke my heart and blew my mind to think of us being separated from our mother and father and sent to a far away land due to poverty. I imagine that it would feel like a double death to loose my parents and have to leave my country (everything I have ever known).
It made me wonder, “what if”. What if instead of those 4 girls being sent overseas for adoption the parents were given financial support to help them make ends meat while they looked for jobs? I contacted the adoption agency to see if there was any thing that I (with maybe the help of others) could do to help keep this family together. I received a response from the agency that thanked me for my e-mail, but went on to say that there wasn’t anything that could be done now as the girls were matched with their new American family.
Since poverty is the #1 reason why families give up their children for adoption, it makes me question the evangelical orphan movement . In recent years, churches have advertised that adoption is the answer to the orphan crisis. Yes, adoption can help a few of the 143 million orphans to grow up in a family. Yet, since adoption does not eradicate poverty, or keep families together, there has to be another more effective movement to help orphans.
What else (besides adoption) may help the orphan crisis? One way to effectively care for orphans is to sponsor a child. Hear me out – I will not even promote one particular sponsorship program in this post 🙂 There are several really good ones out there, I have faith that you can find one. Sponsoring a child helps in so many ways. First, the child receives an education. Many of us know that education can set a person (and future generations) free from poverty. Secondly, the sponsorship program helps to lesson the financial burden for the parents. Often clothing, school supplies, and food are provided to children who are in a sponsorship program. When children are sponsored, the chances that they will get to grow up with their parents, family members, and remain in their community increases drastically. Do you already sponsor a child? That’s great. Really it is. I hope that you will continue to. You are helping with family preservation!
Is child sponsorship the only way to help orphans? No. I won’t focus on all the possibilities (which I wouldn’t even know all of them) in this post. But sponsoring a child is a great way to not only help the orphan crisis but to also help protect children against trafficking. The sad reality is that very few evangelical Christians sponsor a child (often just $25 or $30 per month).
Am I against adoption? No way. Unfortunately, sometimes it IS very necessary. It’s just extremely unfortunate that there has been an evangelical movement where the biblical verse James 1:27 (where Christians are commanded to care for orphans and widows) is often associated with adoption as “the” solution. The truth is that there is more than one way to help orphans in their distress. And adoption is not “the answer” like many of us have been lead to believe. There needs to be a new movement among evangelical Christians re: orphan care. One where we put our efforts, passions, and money towards a) preventing a child from becoming an orphan and b) helping orphans return to their biological families whenever this is possible.
If you wish to dig a bit deeper into orphan care and adoption ethics, please check out Jen Hatmaker’s blog series. I’ll point you to her last post of her 3 part series, but I’d recommend starting at the beginning if you are up for it! Click here for part 3 and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
** I want to say again that I’m not anti-adoption. I desire to share that adoption is not the only or even the most effective way to care for the global orphan crisis.