I’m going to let you in on a little secret here, when I first decided that I wanted to adopt, I’m not sure I had entirely pure motives. Mind you, I was probably in middle or high school and had NO earthly idea what adoption really entailed, except briefly hearing my parents talk about adopting a baby and visiting an orphanage on an overseas missions trip. Let’s just say I have learned a lot since then – thanks to patient and honest friends who have asked tough questions and lovingly corrected us, and to our agency for all the training they gave us, and to my continued commitment to trying to learn everything I can about adoption so I can help my daughters process through such a complex thing as losing one family in order to gain another.
So contrary to what the title says, my hope isn’t to persuade you not to pursue adoption, but rather help you dig deeper into yourselves and your motives for why you are considering adoption. Because I believe that we are able to be the best parents we can be to our children if we are honest with ourselves and arm ourselves with as much information as we can to prepare for the road that lies ahead. Maybe at the end of this post, you will decide adoption isn’t for you (then I have some ways you can still help others), or maybe you will decide to put the process on pause because you have some things to learn, or maybe you’re motives are right on track and you can give yourself a high-five! There also might be some of you out there who have already adopted and now looking back you realize that your intentions weren’t totally selfless to start with, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just means that there’s something more to learn, and now you can focus your efforts there!
With all that being said, I don't think that this is the ideal format for this type of conversation - I would rather be chatting with you over coffee, but since that's not totally feasible - let's just pretend for a minute that we are sitting in a coffee shop, and I just asked you, "Why are you interested in pursuing adoption as a means to grow your family?"
These are a few responses that I believe would warrant some deeper digging before continuing down the road of adoption.
1. You think it's what God has called everyone to do in His command in James 1:27. Let's be clear - adoption is surely one of the ways that we can live out God's command to care for others, but in no way is it the only way, nor quite frankly, is it the most needed way. If you are looking for ways to care for others, continue reading as I'll be sharing some practical ways to do this outside of adopting a child.
2. You have the means to do so, so why not? Just because you have an empty bedroom and a checking account that says you could support feeding another mouth, does not mean you should run out and start the adoption paperwork. Do you want more children? Are you prepared to raise and love another child, as if they were biologically yours? Do you recognize the complexity and weight of raising a child who was born to another woman?
3. You've tried everything to have biological children, but can't so this is your "last resort", even though you still can't get over wanting to have your "own" children. Adoption is a route many couples struggling with infertility take, and this is by no means a blanket statement to say that you shouldn't consider adoption after failed fertility treatments. So, let's breakdown the red flags in the statement above starting with the idea of adoption being your last resort - deep down, do you feel like adoption is in fact your last resort? Would you consider it if you were able to have biological children? Even if you have exhausted all other efforts to have biological children, that doesn’t mean you’re not meant to adopt. God can use all different paths to fulfill His plan for our lives. However, we are responsible for our attitude throughout the process – if you have started down the path of adoption because you are intent on becoming a parent, but your heart just isn’t in it. Stop. Wait. Pray. And continue when and if adoption becomes your heart’s desire.
Now let's move onto the part about not being able to get over wanting your "own" children. First - would you consider a child you adopted to be your own, and consequentially treat them as you would a biological child? If the answer to either is not an immediate yes, I would recommend you wait, research, and pray before continuing the process towards adoption. Secondly, if you have been battling infertility and that has led you to the idea of adoption - have you processed through the grief associated with your infertility? Are you prepared to love a child who comes to you through adoption for who they are, and not just for the hole they fill in your desire to have a child?
These are hard questions. These are questions that my husband and I, after struggling with infertility for 3 years, had to wrestle with as we made the decision to either A) pursue adoption or B) pursue fertility treatments. For us, it was important that when we shared our future child's adoption story with them, that we would be able to say that choosing to adopt them wasn't our last resort. We didn't decide to adopt after exhausting every other means of having biological children because adoption was on our hearts before we ever got married, and we knew it would be part of our story, regardless of whether it was now or later.
4. You want to rescue a child. I still remember sitting in adoption training class and each person went around sharing why they wanted to adopt. The first person to answer confidently proclaimed that they wanted to rescue a child – sounds like a noble enough reason as any, right? The instructor’s response has stuck with me to this day. Adoption is not about you – it’s not something you do to prove how selfless you are or to help you feel good about yourself. If you are looking for that, there are plenty of other ways you can do that besides making the permanent decision to bring a child into your family.
If you go into the adoption process intent on “saving a child”, do you expect them to be grateful to you for doing so? Where in that equation is there room for the grief they feel when they think about losing their first family or for extending grace to their birth parents?
Not to mention, adopting a child is not like saving someone from a burning building where it takes one swooping act of bravery, and you are considered a hero from now until eternity. No, the adoption process is just the beginning. Adoption is a lifetime commitment that involves not only raising another human, but also inviting all the complexities that come with adoption.
Adoption is deciding to add another child to your family. A child that may have significant trauma or attachment issues. A child that may scream uncontrollably because they are weaning off heroine. A child that will notice if you treat them differently than your biological children. A child that will ask you why they don’t look like anybody that they know. A child that one day may say to you “You are not my real mom.” A child that one day will grow up and make their own decisions – ones that may include reconnecting with their birth family. Are you prepared for that?
5. You think it would make for a cute Christmas card. Okay, let’s be honest – you would never say that, BUT you might be thinking it. When you think about your preferences for adoption, would you prefer a child whose race differs from yours? If the answer is yes, can I ask why? Is it possibly because you want others to look at your family and know you adopted? Do you like the idea of people seeing your transracial family and thinking (or telling you) how wonderful you must be for adopting?
These might be far from your reasonings for wanting a transracial adoption, but if you think really hard, is there any part of what I just said that is a little bit true for you? If so, I would implore you to do some more research on adoption – specifically on transracial adoption. You can start by reading “Love is Not Enough: What it Actually Takes to Raise Transracial Adoptees”.
Don’t take this the wrong way – transracial adoption IS important, and very much a legitimate need in our country with 40% of all adoptions being a transracial adoption. However, it comes with its own set of challenges and sacrifices for both the adoptee and adoptive parents, especially for those families who are open to races that are not currently reflected in the community they do life with. If this is the case for you, are you prepared to make some possibly big changes in your life – including where you live, where your kids go to school, what church you attend, or who you hang out with on the weekends, just to name a few?
Adoption means committing to a life of learning about something that is such a huge part of your child’s story, yet you can never fully understand. It means advocating for your child. It means not giving up on a relationship with birth parents that sometimes feels one-sided. It means letting your child grieve the loss of their first parents without feeling threatened. It means being honest with your child, no matter how difficult the information. It means guarding their story – since it is theirs to share.
So now you’re probably wondering – what is the “right” reason for wanting to adopt? And the answer is that there is no right reason, but I think deep down you know whether or not you were meant to walk down the path of adoption or not. Be honest with yourself. Are you doing it so others look at you and say, “they must be such a good person”? Are you doing it because you feel you have the duty to? Or are doing it because you want to?
I have had to take inventory of my motives more times than I can count throughout the process of adoption. When we are honest with ourselves throughout the process, it is SO much easier to be honest with our children as we share their story with them. Don’t you want to be able to tell your children the whole truth about why you decided to adopt? Even if that means waiting, learning, and then jumping back into the process?
As we were undergoing the process of adoption, selecting what we were open to in regards to race, health, and openness, as we have communicated with their birth mother, as we have (or haven’t) shared details of their story with others, I keep thinking about those conversations when they’re older and they ask me “why?” I want to be honest with them, but even more, I want to honor them. I want them to know that their dad and I chose the path of adoption not out of necessity or obligation, but because we wanted to. We wanted to be a safe place for a child who didn’t have one, we wanted to provide unconditional love for a child who needed it, and ultimately, we wanted to be parents – regardless of whether we shared DNA with our children or not.
If you have gotten to end of this post and have realized that maybe adoption just isn’t for you – or maybe you never thought it was, but the title peaked your curiosity and you made it this far, here are a few ideas of things you can do to live out God’s call to care for others (as in James 1:27) without choosing to adopt.
Volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center. There are pregnancy centers in most cities, but you can always look a town over. These centers support women in unplanned pregnancies as they decide which option is best for them, and ultimately if they choose to parent, they offer support services. Many pregnancy centers have “baby boutiques” to help the men and women who choose to parent. They are always looking for donations of gently used baby items, and some may even need volunteers to sort and organize the items. Some pregnancy centers even allow groups to host baby showers for those who decide to parent. If you have nursing skills, computer skills, gardening skills, organization skills, accounting skills, or a plethora of other skills – I am sure a local pregnancy center could find a place to utilize them. And of course, most pregnancy centers rely on fundraising to further their mission, so you can always put your money where your mouth is, so to speak.
On the same note of finances – there are many couples who are physically, mentally and emotionally prepared to adopt, but who lack the finances to do so. Consider donating to a family who is currently in the process of adopting.
Show love to children in foster care by getting involved with an organization like Together We Rise that is transforming the way kids experience foster care in America. Do you know any foster parents? Did you know that they can only have respite babysitting care by someone who has undergone a background check? This makes it especially hard for these couples, who are likely undergoing some already challenging experiences with foster children, to get some very needed time away. Consider talking to foster parents and finding out how you can get a background check and volunteer to watch their kids so they can have a break.
Pray. Pray for those women and men who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies. Pray for the adoption workers and DSS workers and crisis pregnancy counselors. Pray for those families who make the decision to pursue adoption as a means to grow their family. Pray for those children whose birth parents chose to place them in the hands of strangers with hopes and dreams for them – that they would know how very loved they are.
These are just a handful of ways you can serve and minister to others, without adopting – there are SO many ways, just look around you.
So, now I will end with something a friend shared with me about their journey with foster care. When I asked her if they were planning to foster again, she shared with me something her pastor had said in a recent sermon. Not everything from heaven has your name on it.
"Adoption can be a beautiful display of the gospel, but just because something is good, doesn’t mean it has to be right for you right now or maybe ever, and that’s okay."
Blog post written by guest: Lauren Nicole
You can find her on IG @not_our_home