Adoption: What Would Jesus Do?

“If you hadn’t been adopted you might never have known Jesus.”

This was said too often in my Evangelical upbringing. In conversations with several other adoptees, I’ve discovered this statement was on repeat throughout their lives as well. It’s safe to say this reflects the mindset of many Christians in regards to adoption.

When I was flying back from New York after meeting my mother for the first time I received a message from a friend asking me how everything went. I was telling her about our visit and how wonderful my mother is. As I began recounting our time together I found myself engaged in an internal battle fighting to reject all the preconceived notions I had been programmed to believe. Had she decided to parent me we would’ve had a great life together. My life wouldn’t have been worse, just different. And, if I hadn’t been adopted, I never would’ve known otherwise. My friend replied with, “Yes, but did you ever think that you might not have become a Christian?”

Psalm 135:6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all depths.

As it turns out, my mother was and always had been a Christian. But, even if that hadn’t been the case, why would we question or put such limitations on the sovereignty of God? To me, this indicates a lack of faith, tinged with traces of arrogance. This also validates my point: adoptive parents believe they are saving us.

Are they deeply concerned for our souls or are we the embodiment of their charity?

‘White Savior’ has such a negative connotation attached to it, so I’ve hesitated to write on this subject. I’ve been hard pressed to come up with a better term, but it’s scenarios like the one I described that have laid the groundwork for this suitable title. As I’ve observed the altruism behind motivations to adopt, I have seen how my friends and family honestly believe they are saving a child from a life of despair or perhaps even death. Add to that a child’s eternal salvation and every Christian wants to jump on a train filled with passengers waving their flags of virtue. It’s the Faith Olympics and adopting a child is the Gold Medal.

Most people I know feel good about themselves when they’ve done something that makes a difference in the lives of others. We send our children on church or school trips to help the needy, or they’ll go visit orphanages where they get to hold hungry babies. We have fundraisers and/or spend thousands of dollars so we or our children will have an “experience” in an impoverished country with those less fortunate. They post pictures and write blog posts about how it changed their lives and they’ll never take a steak dinner or a pedicure for granted again. We groom our youth to become the next generation of White Saviors.

What if the Church is spending our resources on the wrong thing? Imagine the dramatic shift we could make if we ministered specifically to keep mothers and babies together, families intact, and empowered communities to support those raising their own.

I think about adoption, Christians, and The Church. I lose sleep over it. They have kept the wheels of the adoption machine in motion. They have been the fuel behind a multi-billion dollar industry built on shame, deception, and corruption. If they fully understood the reality behind most adoption, would they continue doing it?

What will adoption look like in 50 years? Because, if it looks the same as it does today then it means we’ve done something wrong. What are we fixing? The solution isn’t to continue adopting, it’s to enable capable mothers to parent their own children.

 

 

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Adoption and Abortion: The Great Conflation

“You should be thankful you weren’t aborted.”

I’m never quite sure how to respond when people say this to me. Throughout my life I’ve heard this more times than I can count. I’m 47 years old and I still have no idea why anyone would say this out loud. The truth is, my mother never considered abortion. And, neither did I.

These hurtful comments are made even more often, now that I’m giving a counter cultural response to the adoption narrative. Adopted people are at no higher risk of being aborted than non adopted people. This is what society has been programmed to believe; that adoption saves a life! Had a child not been adopted, they surely would’ve died.

Let’s break this down for those that are confused: When every single woman discovers she’s pregnant she has, in most states, a window of time to determine her plan of action; abortion or pregnancy. Once she’s made her decision that window closes. Abortion is no longer an option. So, it should never be mentioned again. The alternative to abortion is parenting. Not adoption.

Very rarely will a mother carry her child to term, bonding for 9 months, then want to give her baby away. She’s now faced with how she will raise her child. I can assure you, in most cases, adoption only becomes an option when she feels she doesn’t have the support she needs to parent. To say that adoption “saves a life” is false, and If we are being completely honest, it would be more accurate to say that adoption ends lives.

The attempted suicide rate for adopted people is 4 times greater than that of a non adopted person (link) Additionally, adopted people are over represented in both mental health and substance treatment facilities. (link) So, if everyone would start to process this logically and truthfully we would see clearly that Family Preservation is what saves lives. Children staying with their mother saves lives.

The Pro-Life lobby group is hell bent on this narrative. We see pro-life protesters outside of clinics waiting to pounce on vulnerable women, offering to adopt their babies. This is offensive on multiple levels, but I’ve heard story after story of mothers who, once they were told they didn’t have support to parent, tried to figure out if it was too late to abort. Do pro lifers hear this? Women would rather terminate than be forced to give their babies away.

Having only one choice -a forced adoption- isn’t having a choice. I often wonder if the Pro-Life Movement and the adoption lobby groups share the same bed. We do know that evangelical Christians are the largest lobby group for adoptions today. As long as they continue to conflate the two issues we will have misinformation perpetuated by a society that would rather believe the fairy tales than the truth. But, what a brilliant marketing tactic by the adoption industry: ‘Adoption saves a life!’ They know where their bread is buttered.

I was recently watching a video by Amanda Woolston, author of The Declassified Adoptee (link) . She addresses this issue, the underlying message and the damaging effects they have on the adopted person. She challenges people to first ask themselves if their remark is a “systematic, persistent denial of the adopted persons right as a human being to exist as a normal person.”  When you say to an adopted person that they should be thankful they weren’t aborted you are denying them a right to normalcy. Never mind the fact that these statements are completely untrue.

Words matter. Especially for the adopted person who struggles to feel satisfaction or approval from others. The only way to deconstruct the lies woven throughout adoption is to speak in truth. I know the risks involved, but lives depend on it.

 

Photo credit: My favorite photographer, Anne Heffron

 

Adoption: Infertility, Entitlement, and the Gift of a Child.

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.

I’m no Bible scholar but I’m certain this verse is referencing the womb of the mother who carries the child. I don’t believe it’s referring to this mother as simply a vessel for another woman who is unable to carry a child of her own.

Children are absolutely a gift. But, for whom? God has already chosen who He wants to be the mother. He does not allow a pregnancy to occur in the womb of one woman so she will then give her baby away. I refuse to start believing He makes mistakes. The error, or sin, is made by those scrambling around, trying to make alternative plans for the voiceless being who continues to grow, completely unaware, in the safety of their mothers womb.

Adoption has never been and will never be God’s plan. Let me explain why:

1 John 5:17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

I can’t speak for anyone else so I will say that in relinquishing my firstborn I disregarded the plans God had for me and my daughter. In my arrogance I presumed to know better than Him. He chose ME, not someone else, to be the mother to my child. Every pregnancy is His perfect plan. In God’s infinite wisdom He knew what was best when he placed a child in my womb. When we deliberately make decisions that are in opposition of His plan, we are sinning. I sinned against my daughter and this sin continues to ripple out for generations. Mercifully, by His grace I’m forgiven, but my actions caused harm. Not because my daughter had bad adoptive parents, they’re exceptional people, but because every baby/child experiences life long trauma when separated from their mothers.

Nowhere in scripture is pregnancy or motherhood a sin.

Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

When a girl/woman finds herself in a pregnancy crisis she’s swimming in fear. She runs through every available option. Once she decides to stay pregnant, she’s then faced with how she will be able to parent her child. Much of her decisions from this point forward will depend greatly on the responses and support she receives from those around her; her family, her church family, her friends. As her pregnancy progresses, like every mother in the world, she will develop attachments to her child. This is God’s miraculous and perfect design; the bond between a mother and her baby. When those in a position of authority or power sway (coerce) a vulnerable girl/woman away from a relationship with her own child, there is culpability and someday they will have to answer for it. If you claim to follow Christ, there is a responsibility to do what is just and right. (1 John 2:6) Is it possible that in our ignorance we are suggesting a mother make the wrong decision? If we aren’t being obedient to His plan we are complicit in not only a sin, but also an injustice against mothers and their children.

Psalm 127:3-4 Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.

I’ve heard this same story told over and over by mothers who have lost their children to adoption; we were told our own children “deserved better,” they put us on a pedestal of selflessness, using the love for our children against us; if we really loved them we would give them away.

For the adopted person, love= abandonment.

Deuteronomy 5:21 And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field. or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Is it a sin to desire (covet) another woman’s child?

I’m in no position to understand the depth of grief associated with infertility, but I have had several friends who have walked through its wretchedness. Watching them agonize through the process was heartbreaking and I have tremendous empathy. We know that couples will try, often for years, to conceive their own children. When their efforts are proven unsuccessful they often look to adoption as an alternative, or, as a last resort. It then becomes apparent they will settle for any baby to fill their desire to be parents. So often the desire of our heart can cloud judgement and good intentions. There is a very fine line between what a person desires and what they feel they deserve.

In order for one family to be created through adoption, another family must be destroyed. How can we say one mother’s pain trumps another?

James 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured by his own desire. Then desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

When the desire of our heart is to be a parent and adoption is viewed as a loving option for everyone involved (a “win-win-win”), lines become blurred. We begin to justify an attitude of entitlement by disguising it as an ‘answer to prayer’ or ‘a gift from God’.

What is best for the child?

If a child via adoption is truly a “gift from the Lord”, why does it continue to destroy so many in its wake? Why is there so much pain and suffering as a result? (www.dearadoption.com)

The best place for a child is with their biological parents. Period. When that isn’t possible, kinship care is the better option, rather than being placed in the arms of strangers. Adoption should always be a last resort. Adoption, at it’s inception, was created for children who truly need permanency and love, not as a way to provide children for couples unable to have their own.

Typically, in most adoptions there is a group of people with more power and/or money who believe they have the right to determine what’s best for a mother and her child. The running narrative in our society, and more specifically, The Church, states that a child would be “better off” if they are raised by a married, Christian couple with a stable income, a four bedroom home, two cars, reside in a wealthy suburb, have a college education and substantial savings…etc. etc. When this is seen as suitable criteria, a very important piece of information is being overlooked: This was never the life God had planned for them.

 

Photo credit: Anne Heffron

 

America, You Have An Adoption Problem.

This post provides some sobering numbers.
Additionally, in countries such as Australia, England, and Ireland, private adoptions are illegal, as it’s considered unethical. Imagine that. Thanks friend for writing this necessary post. America, we have a huge problem.

velvet bocephus

Dear America,

I spent the first 16 years of my adoption experience as a “birth” mother in complete isolation. It was preceded by the nearly 10 months of family-conducted isolation during my pregnancy. Such is the life of a shamed pregnant teenager. I had personally never known either an adopted person or a natural mother. I thought my mother and the adoption agent, with whom she colluded, sounded like they were full of shite, but how was I to know any different? By the time I delivered my precious girl, my efforts to keep her via parenting classes at a local pregnancy center and accumulation of baby necessities (all returned by my mother) only proved my selfishness. I would be selfish having only love to offer a child. Ultimately, it was the threat of homelessness by my parents that definitively made my adoption “choice”. My greatest fear at the time was my daughter being placed in foster care due…

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The Church and Adoption: Changing the Narrative

Christians, at least the Christians I know, really want to do the right thing. When it comes to adoption they truly believe the narrative that tells them they are giving a better life to a child in need, and they’re comfortable with the status quo. But, how do we peel back the layers so we can reveal what is happening beneath adoption’s polished surface? How do we reshape a message that so many hold so tightly? And, more importantly, how do we do this in a way that will open hearts to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, what they’ve always been told is wrong…

Proverbs 12:17 He who speaks truth tells what is right, But a false witness, deceit.

The Church

Why is The Church willing to discuss controversial topics like homosexuality, divorce, addictions, abortion, or even politics, yet, unwilling to address the very real issues surrounding adoption? Is it because they aren’t aware that problems exist within adoption? Is it because they know someone who has adopted, or is adopted? Are they worried about hurting someone’s feelings? Are they afraid if they dig deeper they might discover that their altruistic intentions were misguided? Not only do I want to understand why, but I’d also like to know how we got here.

We have all the information. We have studies that provide alarming statistics of adoptee suicide rates, mental health issues, and over representation in jail populations. We have knowledge of trauma when a mother and her child are separated, not just some of the time, but every single time an adoption occurs. We have clear evidence of corruption and trafficking, both domestically and most frequently, internationally. We have facts to support that rarely, if ever, are there true orphans (no living family members) living in orphanages. We have story after story of mothers being coerced to relinquish their children.

We have one adoptee after another telling us how difficult life has been for them (Dear Adoption). We have mothers that are wrecked after losing their children; nothing left but a shell of their former selves. We have adoptive parents throwing in the towel and returning (rehoming) the children they don’t know how, or no longer want to parent. We have angry adopted kids/teens acting out their trauma while their parents are ripping their hair out, begging God to help them manage their children. Everyone is frustrated and stressed out but darn it, these parents are committed. So, why are we still touting adoption as a “better life,” a “win-win,” or a “beautiful choice?”

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.

Does the Lord mistakenly put babies in one womb when, in reality, He intends them for another woman? Is this His plan? Why are we telling mothers that their children would be better off being raised by someone else? Why are we perpetuating a myth that unmarried mothers aren’t good enough to parent their own children? Why are we referring them to crisis pregnancy centers or adoption agencies? Why are we suggesting adoption at all? Why aren’t we doing everything we can to support these mothers in crisis? Why are we enticing vulnerable girls/women with adoption as an option, and when did it become acceptable to give away our family? We don’t give away family members. We just don’t. And, contrary to the pro-life argument, adoption isn’t the alternative to abortion, parenting is. (but that’s another blog post).

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

In the last few years I have had the opportunity to get to know other mothers and hear their adoption stories. The same thread runs through many of their experiences, which is, that the news of the pregnancy was met with shame and despair by not only family but members of their church. Shame? It’s a baby, a new life. Perhaps if we alter our responses to unplanned pregnancy from the shame game to what it really is, a precious gift- a gift for your family, not someone else’s – the stigma attached will begin to fade. Pregnancy isn’t a sin. Motherhood isn’t a sin. A baby isn’t a sin.

Many churches have a Single Mothers Ministry. They have children’s clothing, formula, bottles, diapers, readily available should a single mother need it. But, why aren’t we going back prior to this? Is The Church placing stipulations on which mothers receive this help? Let’s go back to how we respond to a pregnant woman in crisis. Do we offer these items to her? Do we provide support? Do we rally around her, telling her that SHE IS ENOUGH for her baby?

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I have seen this wave of Christians decide that adoption is what they’re called to do. White Saviors. And, The Church gets behind them, including financial support. Do we see the conflict? Do we understand that the majority of the time a mother is considering adoption it’s simply because she’s lacking support and resources? Yet, we will rally around these families in their quest to “bring their children home.” Why are so many church members spending tens of thousands of dollars to remove a child from their family and their culture when that money could be used to BUILD SOMETHING; a safe place for them to remain together in the countries that have poverty and deep cultural stigma? Why aren’t we helping by keeping their family in tact, rather than removing their children? Why isn’t this a ministry within The Church? Why aren’t we preserving families first? How have so many people, seemingly, misinterpreted and misconstrued the meaning of this verse? What would Jesus do?

It’s so scary when our core foundation of beliefs are challenged. No one wants to step outside of safe and familiar to take a hard look at the areas where they’ve made mistakes. It was a jagged pill to swallow, at age 45, comprehending that the decision to relinquish my daughter, and my mothers decision to relinquish me, were not only avoidable, but harmful. We made the wrong decisions and we caused irrevocable damage to our children in the process. No one told us because no one knew. We simply accepted the narrative that had been passed on for generations, specifically within the church.

We must have these hard conversations. It’s uncomfortable because it forces people to look inward. Are we culpable? When I see people turn a blind eye to the atrocities that occur within adoption, I have to wonder… Who is it really about? A child in need or a couple’s desire for a child?

 

Photo by Anne Heffron

 

The Call to Adopt: Christians and Adoption.

I’ve heard these phrases often:
“We always felt called to adopt.”
“We never felt compelled to have our own children, so we chose to adopt.”
“Adoption was laid on our hearts.”
“We prayed about it and decided we would adopt.”
“We prayed for this child.”
“Adoption was God’s plan for our family.” etc. etc. etc.

Each of these comments prompt me to ask this question: If you knew you were called to adopt your children, if this was your prayer, then is it remotely possible that you misunderstood what the Lord was saying? And if you misunderstood, then how is it so many are misunderstanding what He is trying to say?

I am asking.

I know so many women that have struggled with the pain of infertility, even so, is it possible that maybe, just maybe, the desire of your heart is louder than the voice of the Lord? See, I don’t believe we are entitled to everything we want in this life. I think sometimes God says “No.”

For anyone that has ever attended an evangelical church, you know that adoption is as common as coffee in the atrium. The evangelical church is the largest lobby group for adoption today. Adoption has become a popular choice by both the pastoral staff and members of their congregation. Dare I say “trendy”? But, let’s go back to Scripture. How was adoption cited in the Bible? Other than Mordecai and Esther (a kinship adoption) I’m unaware of any adoption. Moses was- sort of- adopted but his mother nursed him and helped raise him, and there was no happy ending there considering his estrangement from the Israelites and subsequent flight into the desert. If we look more closely at a few of the verses that might be interpreted as reason to adopt, we find that there is a huge discrepancy between the verses pertaining to spiritual adoption into the family of Christ and adoption as it’s known today.

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Psalm 68:5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Psalm 82:3 Defend the weak and the fatherless, uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Matthew 18:5 Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.

Now, here’s the thing. I am trying to find the verse or verses that tell us to adopt another woman’s child and raise them as our own. I need to find it, but I can’t. If I found it, then I would understand why so many believe this to be something ‘the Lord has called them to do..’ I want to have grace for these decisions, including the decision I made 27 years ago. I was told this was God’s Will. I was told this (adoption) was the consequence for my sin. What I do see, over and over, however, is that we are to care for the orphans and widows. CARE FOR THEM. Do we see the difference? Imagine if the church made their ministry about keeping families together, rather than tearing them apart. Imagine if the tens of thousands of dollars paid to adopt a baby went to preserving a family instead? That IS the heart of Christ! Does He make mistakes? If he doesn’t then we must see that He had a plan when He allowed a pregnancy to occur. He had already chosen who He wanted to be the mother of that child. Was adoption a sin because we weren’t following the plan he had already put into place? Certainly a “calling” would have a clear scriptural reference.

(1 John 4) We are to search every spirit. We are to be like the Bereans searching scripture daily. This needs to apply to adoption as well. The church takes it as just so, but it never existed for 2,000 years until the last century.

Exodus 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant, or his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Coveting. This is a dangerous thing. And, if you profess to be a Christian then you strive to be like Christ. I have seen pages and pages of prospective adoptive parents requesting “prayers for the birthmother; that she will please make the right decision and give them their baby” (click here). The truth is, this isn’t their baby. It belongs to the mother that birthed the child and that’s where God intended this child to be. There’s no denying that they are praying that the “birthmother” will give them what they’ve longed and prayed for; what they believe is rightfully theirs. I’m trying very hard to understand why they feel this child belongs to them, via domestic adoption or international. Either one.

Matthew 6:2 When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

Virtue signaling. It seems adoption has become more of an appearance thing and less of a God thing. It’s a heart issue, for sure. Adoptive parents stand out as virtuous, yet the scripture clearly states we aren’t to brag about our giving, yet, the child is the embodiment of their charity.

Does God definitively ordain the adoption of a poor and/or isolated women’s babies? Does God consecrate the paper orphan? If the answer is no, then the church is in a major crisis. If the answer is yes, then many of us are in a crisis of faith.

Proverbs 31:8-9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless and see that they get justice.

As long as we have adoption I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless, the infants that never asked to be removed from their mothers, be it forcibly or by subtle coercion. They never asked to be adopted and I’m certain every single infant would choose to remain with their own mother.

Written with help and support from Velvet Bocephus.

Photo credit: Anne Heffron

 

 

Adoptees and Saying Goodbye

I hate saying goodbye. It might be a move, a death, a break up, or an unhealthy friendship. Sometimes it’s just that a vacation is over, yet, for many adoptees it’s so much more than a goodbye; it’s a visceral response that is really uncomfortable. Even if we no longer want the person around, the thought of them not there anymore might induce something akin to terror. I’ve faced this. The logical reasoning is present, just not being applied. We would rather keep people in our lives simply to avoid being triggered, even when it has little to do with the person you’re saying goodbye to, but more to do with the feelings that go along with it. We revert back to infancy; the image of being left alone, the fear of not being heard, of being left behind.

After talking with other adoptees and therapists I understand that I’m not insane. It’s yet another glorious side effect of adoption trauma. I have, on more than one occasion, stood outside of myself watching the chaos unfold. Reasonable Me is pleading with Unreasonable Me, begging her to come to her senses as she has a melt down in the corner; her eyes are wild and she’s inconsolable, demanding that I leave her alone. There’s no logic with this woman, but what I now understand is that Unreasonable Me is actually Infant Me and she is terrified of feeling abandoned.

A wise friend gave me great advice a few years ago and I’m still trying to make it stick: Most relationships have a life cycle, they last for only a season. Wisdom is knowing when to withdraw or when to let it ebb and flow. It’s not always the death of a relationship, but sometimes it just grows old and slows down. Most relationships have imbalance; one person investing more than the other. It’s the rare relationships that remain equal that will live forever.

For many adoptees, and certainly for Unreasonable Me, this notion of a friendship life cycle brings uncertainty. We hold on tightly to those we love, sometimes in desperation, hoping they never leave. This reeks havoc on our self esteem. There has to be a way to gracefully navigate through these uncomfortable places. We need tools and we need to understand why before we can learn how. I want to learn how to climb over these massive rocks that were set in my path so I can look back and say I DID IT.