Church

October 09 2013
59

Adoption Ethics

My favorite group of practitioners, activists, and life-long learners gathered in Austin, Texas for my one-and-only can’t miss conference of the year. This year, we came together to discuss the complex issues of “human care”–issues of orphan care, gospel-centered mission work, international relief, and gender issues, among other things.  This conference is one of a different stripe, a deconstructionist’s dream, a conference where it’s okay to leave with burning questions, no immediate solutions, and the realization that only by the grace of God do we tread into the difficult work of the gospel.

It was my privilege to attend this gathering as both a student and presenter, my particular presentation topic involving issues of international adoption ethics.*  And so, after delving into various ethical issues currently facing the international orphan care community–issues including baby-brokering, soft trafficking, fraud, and manipulation–a group of us made our way to the basement of the Methodist church to engage in a breakout discussion of adoption ethics.

A Christian relief worker from Haiti fired up the discussion, shared of the difficulties in ensuring that outgoing Haitian orphans had proper paperwork. The integrity of the good orphan care agencies had been called into question because of the scoundrels looking to turn a buck on orphans, she said. Others built on her stories, shared of adoption agencies that refused to share birth-parent information with the adoptive parents, and refused to confirm that the children were double orphans or otherwise ethically relinquished.

Questions flew, too. How can the local church help prospective adoptive parents ask the right questions? How do we help them pursue the most ethical international adoption? We were on our way to a productive discussion.

That’s when the levee broke.

A shy hand raised in the corner of the room. “I’ve adopted internationally,” she said, “and I’ve wrestled with whether it was all above board. The paperwork for my children has gone missing, the orphanage has shut down, and my adoption agency has been closed.”  She broke, then paused, then regrouped. I prepared myself to console her, to offer a gentle word, and that’s when she dropped the theological nuclear bomb.

“But here’s what I’d like to know from you: who are we to question the ethics of my childrens’ adoption? Who are we to question the sovereignty of God?”

*****

The sovereignty of God–ah, that grand Ace of Spades. In full disclosure, I’ve spent the majority of my Christian life in reformed circles, and if I’m painfully honest, I often still interpret scripture through this lens. Yes, I believe that we are God’s handiwork, that we’ve been created in Christ to do works prepared for us long ago. Yes, I believe that God, in his sovereignty, works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Here’s something I’ve always thought and never said, though–invoking God’s sovereignty to avoid tough questions is a misapplication of the doctrine.

Now, before I continue, allow me to recognize that a good many storytellers have found themselves in hot water when they delved into theology. For purposes of today’s exercise, however, allow me a bit of leeway.

Should we employ sovereignty like a spiritual trump card that ends all play? Should we use it in as an ends-justifying-the-means way to avoid questions of injustice and inequity? Is God’s sovereignty a shield for our best-intentioned mistakes? Should we jettison our faculties for critical thinking, should we stop asking questions because “God ordained outcome X before the foundations of the earth?” Should we use it to avoid considering the consequences of our actions?

If this is the definition of sovereignty, I think we’re using the wrong dictionary.

Allow me to embellish by way of an adoption ethics hypothetical.

Hypothetical:

A sub-Saharan mother is approached by a local orphanage. “Relinquish your baby,” the orphanage worker says, “and your daughter will go to America, will be afforded a proper education.” Implications are made. The child will return, the mother is told, will be able to better assist in the family economy.  The mother relinquishes the child in hopes that a better life for the daughter will one day mean a better life for the extended family. The child is adopted and flown across the world. Two years pass, then three. A decade goes by and the mother has neither seen, nor received any word regarding the whereabouts or condition of her baby girl. She waits, wonders what would happen that her daughter would not come home.

Amidst this hypothetical (but occasionally all too real) backdrop, some of you are now asking various important questions. If the mother did not understand the ramifications of relinquishing her daughter, was the relinquishment ethical? If the relinquishment was not ethical, is the adoption just? If the adoption was not just, and if the adoptive parents did not know, are they somehow complicit in the working of injustice? And if the church avoided asking the right and difficult questions under the rubric of God’s sovereignty, has the church engaged in a myopic mockery of the interplay between a sovereign God and the sinful nature of man?

This issue is not only limited to the context of international adoption, and let me make some things clear. I know a whole host of good parents who have engaged in the practice of international adoption. Some of them have asked hard questions to ensure that their adoptions are as ethical as can be. Others have wrestled with the questions after-the-fact, have made no excuses or theological rationalizations but have rested in God’s grace. That being said, and in light of the recent attacks on the evangelical orphan movement, I’ve been noticing an uptick in the sovereignty argument—God sovereignly ordained that I adopt my child from insert-the-name-of-foreign-country, and so I need not ask any other questions; I trust in God regardless of the supposed inequities to my fellow man. (In full disclosure, I added that last statement.)

Though I do not presume to speak for God, though I cannot claim insight into the nuanced interaction between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, allow me one observation: God’s sovereignty is no excuse for the blind-injustices of man, however well-intentioned they may be. He is ever just. He is ever equitable. He will not be mocked by our theologically tidied-up versions of unjust stories.

 

*Issues of adoption ethics are complicated, nuanced, and there are no easy answers.  Others have unpacked the issues well, including Kristen Howerton, Jen Hatmaker, and J.R. Goudeau.   These, and others within the Christian context, have shed light on the potential corruptions and abuses within the international adoption system. To retread that ground here would be unfruitful. If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, please visit the above links.

59 comments

  1. Boom. Been waiting for this one. It was everything I knew it would be.

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  2. Jenny Jones

    Seth, my husband and I were in the basement with you that day. And, in the car on the way had the exact discussion you just described above. It made us make some hard decisions, but I know also prevented us from living the rest of our lives with some much more painful repercussions. And to answer your question, I think the “sovereign of God” juke (if you will) is a very slippery slope! Not just in adoption ethics, but in following Christ in general. God is sovereign, he does work through corrupt system, in sinful situations and we see that over and over again in the Bible. However, that cannot be used as a justification for not doing research, not proceeding with caution and not ultimately being willing to say no if need be.

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    • Jenny,

      So glad you shared that basement with us. I hope you came away with the sense that it was a graceful (even if difficult) discussion. I would love to hear more about your decisions, and would love to hear, too, whether you decide to jump into the fray (or whether you already are) of family reunification/rehabilitation.

      Thanks so much for dropping in here, Jenny!

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    • Amen and Amen!

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  3. Sean

    Great post Seth. Something that has been weighing heavy on my heart since my wife and I began the process of adoption. Really, even before it.

    I quake at the thought of these little children left at the doorsteps of orphanages simply because the family was going through a rough period. A forever change based on a temporary difficulty. I want to do all we can to keep these families together. We actively support ministries with this goal, and I think it is the best long-term sustainable solution to the orphan crisis.

    Even worse is the outright kidnapping of children either by force, by lies, or by money. This is despicable and there are far too many children brought into US adoptions through this type of trafficking.

    I think these issues need to be soberly considered and unflinchingly pursued to ensure we are doing all we can to walk in justice. These are real children, real families, real lives. Certainly not something to be taken lightly.

    My question here is how do we bring these important issues to light, and have this discussion out in the open without creating a counter movement? It seems in certain circles that international adoption is almost looked down on now, or at least there is a flavor of it being “less than the best.”

    The reality is that there are still many waiting children, many special needs children, many aids orphans who have no one. They were not trafficked or handed over for a better life in America. They are stuck in orphanages waiting to age-out if no one comes for them. I am scared this discussion could lead to fewer of these kids getting help.

    How do we recognize the error on the one side of unethical adoptions, without veering into the other error of pulling away from kids who really need help?

    We must be sure everything is being done to keep families together, that the agencies go to great lengths to find birthmothers, birth families to try to reunite, but what about when there really is no one?

    In-country adoption is clearly second best, but the capacity isn’t there right now. What do we do?

    I don’t have an answer here, I feel stuck. I am not even trying to argue, I just don’t know where this conversation can happen.

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    • Karon

      I think you’ve asked some important questions, and am interested as to why the author skipped right over your comment to address several others…

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      • Karon,

        I’m getting to the above comment, do not worry. Sometimes comments are approved out of order, and I had not seen this one until this morning. I hope to consider the questions and (fingers crossed) offer a thoughtful response.

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        • Karon

          Thank you! I just know that as an adoptive parent (international, 7 years ago), I feel a sense of shame when reading on this topic. Not necessarily from your post, and I can’t put my finger on it, but it makes our family-building feel “less than” or somehow wrong. I know if we were considering it now, I would certainly feel dissuaded by the conversation, and I’m wondering where the balance is. Also curious as to whether you are an adoptive parent yourself…

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          • Karon,

            First, please let me say that you should never feel a sense of shame. You and your children are my brothers and sisters and I’d never want my brothers and sisters to feel shame, even when delving into terribly difficult topics.

            The balance is really hard, I think. (See my comments above.) I think that adoption is still part of the solution. But I think that for parents considering adoption, we need to consider asking them to ask the hard questions. This kind of self-policing will truly help perpetuate the best interest of the child.

            As for your question, I am not an adoptive parent. My wife and I were moving toward an Ethiopian adoption in 2009 and called it off due to the inability of our agency to answer our questions. I’ve been involved in the adoption ethics discussion ever since.

    • Your question is so important (and the answers, to the extent that there are any, are so complicated). You are right–disease, family death, stress on the extended family, these all create a real need in orphan care spaces. I think it’s important to talk about trafficking, soft trafficking, and manipulation of world views, while simultaneously promoting ethical adoptions.

      You are right, there are still many waiting children stuck in orphanages. To this end, I’ve been trying to support various organizations like Kidmia (kidmia.org) in Ethiopia that seek to find families that will adopt the children within their local context. The placements are quicker, there is less money changing hands, and it cuts down the waiting lists, where corruption is bound to occur.

      But to the extent that this doesn’t alleviate the problem (and I don’t think it ever will completely) then I think all we can do is educate ourselves, ask the best questions to ensure that we’re not creating avenues for the trafficking of children, whether soft or hard.

      Incidentally, I’ve heard some argue that “even if children were trafficked into an orphanage, it’s not their fault. God, in his sovereignty can use me to create a better situation.” I think this is problematic for several reasons. Most particularly, though, I’m afraid this kind of argument (especially in light of how much money is changing hands) perpetuates more of the same. It can become a vicious cycle.

      Anyhow, I’d love to continue this dialogue. Let me know where I may have missed a question, and feel free to push back. We’re all trying to come to some solutions, here. It’s a tricky subject.

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      • Karon

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Seth (and sorry, didn’t see an option to reply under your last response). The reason I asked whether you are an adoptive parent is, as one myself, it’s easier to hear from someone who has been in the same situation. It just is. One voice I am not hearing in this conversation is someone like me — someone whose only path to parenthood was adoption, who didn’t have biological children and then make the decision to adopt. Someone for whom the decision to walk away from adoption also means walking away from parenthood, and all the emotions that are tied up in that. I guess I feel sad for couples now who are where my husband and I were 8 years ago – who feel led to adoption, but may now feel such censure from other Christians about their motives and desires. I would love to know if there is someone out there who has traveled that particular road, and is familiar with navigating those emotions, yet is still willing to ask the hard questions. That is a perspective I would love to hear.

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        • Hi Karon. Thank you for joining this conversation. I, too, have adopted internationally and my family is the richer for it. If I might jump in here, as I have also tackled adoption ethics, although not as articulately as Seth. The problem with this discussion as I see it is this: When ethics are raised, APs immediately become defensive and use various banners as their shield: sovereignty, harming the adoption movement, etc. The thing is, these are not mutually exclusive. We don’t have to choose between insisting on ethical adoptions OR adopting. These belong together. Ethical adoptions EXIST, and there are best practices to ensure them. That is what we are saying. Moving forward blindly, willingly or unwillingly, is not godly. It is irresponsible and unjust. We need more APs banging their drums for ethical adoptions, which are not cancelled out by the discussion. If we sincerely care for the orphan, this is our only recourse. We must insist on not making this about “our feelings” but rather the vulnerable families, the exploited communities, the truly orphaned, the systems. You are welcome here, and this is not a shame-based discussion. If APs cannot rally for best practices, who will?? Much love, sister.

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          • Karon

            Hi Jen. I commented with something similar on your blog, but I know you get many comments. Never said that anyone should move forward blindly, or do anything that is irresponsible or unjust. And I hope that I’m not coming across as defensive. Since you’ve welcomed me, and I feel like an AP like me could (and should) help, I’m making a suggestion for how to lower defenses — find someone who is infertile to join the discussion. Otherwise, I feel like you are preaching to the choir, because you are losing some of your important, really-needs-to-hear-this audience to a big ol’ case of “It’s easy for you to say…..”. However, I understand that infertility is my own baggage and perhaps not relevant or even detracts from the bigger issue. I’m still here and still reading and learning. :) I just feel like having that perspective (which is shared by many, many APs) could only help move the conversation forward.

    • Noel Carlson

      Seth, I worked at Greg Boyd’s church, so I think you know where I stand on the whole sovereignty of God piece. Thanks for bringing it up.

      I guess I am writing to thank you for voicing concern as someone who did NOT complete an adoption. It means a lot to me to know that not just adoptive parents are weighing in on this controversy. I applaud you and your wife for being able to walk away when difficult questions aren’t answered.

      In regards to the adoption ethics, I would like to add this to the conversation. I am so not trying to be defensive, but just sharing what is on my heart. I feel that as a PAP, we sometimes aren’t even allowed to have a voice in the game. Here is a little bit more of my perspective. If you have time at all, I would be curious to hear your thoughts.

      As a PAP, I am SO APPRECIATIVE to have the insight as to what is going on. We first pursued an international adoption from Ethiopia six years ago. We then became pregnant and put our adoption on pause. Here we are 6 years later, working with Haiti, and asking so many more questions. I am very thankful for the discussion on adoption ethics, as it gives us peace of mind as we head into the already complicated world of adoption.

      This being said, I must say, I’ve never felt so judged before. I feel as if I am continually justifying every step we take, even to people who have no idea that there even is an adoption ethics discussion happening. Howerton, Livesay, Hatmaker, I hear, appreciate, and respect them. Because of them, we have switched countries, we’ve switched creches due to vested interests, are hiring independent translators, are pursuing the adoption of a child on the waiting children list, are huge proponents of open adoption, continued cultural contact and trips to Haiti, efforts being made to guarantee that every “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed, and some how, despite all of this, I feel judged. This is more my issue than it is anyone else’s, but I still struggle that we are somehow doing something wrong in pursuing adoption.

      As a PAP, I sometimes wonder if it would be more encouraging as well as helpful if there was not just a discussion as to what is wrong in the adoption ethics arena. I get it. It’s corrupt. I understand that. It is vitally important to know this and spread the truth. But I also think we would all agree that adoption should not cease completely.

      For a PAPs like me and my husband, I would also appreciate stories of how people are doing it right. Maybe there would be less shame and judgement surrounding my adoption desires if I had someone say, “This is how ethical adoptions do happen and what you’re doing to ensure an ethical adoption is great.” Not that we need the validation of every single person, but we do need encouragement and support from the body of Christ. Support meaning, try this, ask these questions, etc. I would really like to think that adoption, when done correctly, is a good thing. Maybe not God’s ideal, but another option for living in this fallen world.

      Adoption, when everything is done ethically, is hard enough. I look forward to more discussion on adoption ethics, but also in hearing how people are doing it right. I understand that there is some of this happening, I just feel as a PAP I hear way more about how we do it wrong rather than how to do it correctly. I think this might be why some view the discussions as being anti-adoption, not that I think this, but I can see why they say this.

      I also must add that I know that as with all things in life, there are always more questions than answers, problems than solutions. Wrestling with these issues is difficult but worth it.

      Thank you for taking time to discuss this issue, Seth. It is needed. Thank you also for allowing me to share my perspective.

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  4. i am honestly staggered than anyone would employ these kinds of theological gymnastics. it’s just so…callous. God’s ways are mysterious, but deception, exploitation, trafficking…these sins and injustices are not nearly so grey as some might pretend. thanks for drawing attention to the need for investigation and reform and for leading another way. the world is watching, and our blind eyes and justifications bear terrible witness to the God and Kingdom we serve.

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    • “Theological gymnastics…”

      Yes.

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  5. Josh

    If I argue that a thing having happened is conclusive evidence that it’s exactly what God wanted, I can justify anything, can’t I? If God didn’t want me to have that car, I wouldn’t have been able to steal it. Right? There are so many flaws in that argument it doesn’t even need a rebuttal.

    That said, I can’t imagine what a punch in the gut it must be to discover that the child you lovingly and trustingly adopted was likely trafficked into the system. The sad thing is not that this poor woman is wrong, but that her reaction was to button up her grief rather than working through it constructively in the love and grace of God and those around her.

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    • Josh,

      This is exactly right. I had a good dialogue with the woman afterward, one that would take a book chapter to convey. You are hitting the nail on the head more than you know.

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      • EXACTLY, Josh. Right on target. Discovering that the child you love and believe you rescued might not have come to you in the way you thought is a devastating thing. And grief (and hopefully, some outrage) should follow. But we so often don’t want to go there, to the negative emotions, so we cover them with theological truisms. Except in this case, there is little truth there. The sovereignty of God is misunderstood and misused. I surely don’t have all the theological pins in a row on this huge topic, but this much I do know. God is not static. The ‘design’ is not set in concrete, but is fluid and rich and involves us as partners in ways that are surprising and complex. God’s sovereignty does not mean that every detail of our lives is planned in advance – that would make us puppets or chess pieces, and clearly we are not. Someone somewhere in the blogosphere uttered this little phrase which has stuck with me: God is sovereign over sovereignty. Now that smacks of cliche a bit but I think (like many cliches) it is also true. This is a matter that is so over our heads and we want to grab it and bring it down to our size and use it as a battering ram or a defense of some sort.

        Off the soapbox now. Thanks for this great post, Seth. Truly. We need to wrestle with hard things, don’t you think? And this one is hard, indeed.

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        • I wonder if that was Greg Boyd? It sounds like nugget from him. I loved that soapbox speech very much! Amen to everything you’ve said here. Thank you Lord I am not a puppet with every little thing controlled by you and that you love me enough to let me choose and mess up and learn and grow and trust.
          Tara

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        • Amanda

          Diana – thank you!

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        • Diana, thank you for this thoughtful reply. It is as spot on as Seth’s article is. This: “This is a matter that is so over our heads and we want to grab it and bring it down to our size and use it as a battering ram or a defense of some sort.” We just so want to understand God fully, and in attempting to, I worry that we misuse rich, complicated, nuanced theology. Great discussion.

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        • Seth

          So good, D. Thank you for teasing out the false “truisms” with grace.

          And yes, this one is hard, but it’s so important that we try our best to get it right, especially if we’re looking out for the “best interest of the child,” and considering what it means to bring gospel dignity to the suffering.

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  6. It is so tragic when people use theological loopholes to dismiss God’s call to justice and to loving and caring for the widows and orphans. How can we be participatory in that call if we turn a blind eye to the sin and injustice prevalent in that very function? How is that loving anyone well? I know these issues go so deep and living in a community were there is a very high rate of international adoption, I shudder to think there are attitudes like this out there.
    I believe in God’s sovereignty. I believe He is at work even in the midst of suffering and pain and injustice. In all truth, it’s taken me a lifetime to believe it and see it as truth. But I do. But one of the ways He works, is through His people being willing to stand up and say this is wrong. This isn’t how we do it. How can we do it better?
    Thank you for this, Seth. So much to think about with this post and Preston’s.

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    • Thanks for your words. And I agree with you regarding God working through pain and suffering, but also through the acts of his people. Good words, Alia.

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  7. chad markley

    Damn son!! You dropped it like it was hot! I don’t have much more to comment beyond what we’ve already discussed offline. I just wanted to chime in and say WELL DONE!

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    • Thanks, Mr. Markley. You are a beast.

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  8. So appreciate your words here and agree completely. As an adoptive mother though, I have compassion for the woman you spoke of and the jumble of feelings she may have had in that basement. May her grief lead her to a clearer perspective and greater advocacy for her children’s *whole* story.

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    • Yes, Stephanie. Yes, this is my prayer, too.

      I’ve often said that once the children are in your house, the stakes change. But part of those stakes include, I think, telling the “whole” story as you say.

      I’m blessed by your call for compassion, too. Many of us (ahem… me…) in these circles would be wise to remember to clothe our words in compassion.

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  9. I am a birth mother and I am so very very very thankful for this post and the conversation. My birth son and I now operate a non-profit organization which serves to advocate and educate individuals and families about adoption. Your post is excellent and I am going to take it to our next board meeting to use as a resource to help us navigate this new ministry and network and serve both families, birth parents, and the adoption agencies we partner with now and in the future. We want to serve with integrity, ethics, and excellence and have been asked questions like this before. Thank you for this post!

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    • Thanks for reading, Rebecca. I sincerely hope your work is blessed.

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  10. Krista McCoy

    Wow. Thanks for this. You got this spot on. I am adopted (from foster care) and am a social worker/therapist. I was adopted and raised in a family that were STRONG believers…which included taking a strong stand against all kinds of social injustices. In fact, they did not come to adopt to “make a family”, but rather to adopt a child of color who; due to racism and other injustices, would otherwise languish in foster care. My grandmother, mom and dad, and now me and my siblings are strong believers in social justice and reform; including that the church and it’s members MUST take a stand against all types of social injustices, domestically and internationally; and that is what we are called to do. (I supposed this is part of my reasoning for becoming a social worker as well.) We are to do so in small way, and bigger ways; without being “fanatics”. But by doing to the least of these…….we are doing it for Him and his Kingdom.

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    • I absolutely agree with you Krista. It’s imperative that we move forward with grace and compassion, but also in ways that don’t do as much harm as they do good. It’s imperative that we don’t excuse potential harm as “sovereignly ordained,” too. So, yes…

      And thank you for sharing part of your story here. It fleshes out the theoretical.

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  11. I have long struggled with this. I wrote a lot of thoughts on the topic this spring. One precious woman told me that I need to “Let God be God”. I asked what that meant? I found out it means, when you see something troubling, corrupt, unjust, or ugly, you simply pray and then look away. Don’t DO anything after that. And for the love of God, don’t talk about it!

    HELP US if we go with that line of reasoning. like.for.real. HELP US LORD.

    Seth and Amber and friends – it was good to talk about this stuff and find out that none of us think these things alone — we’re onto something and we’re simmering in the same sauce.

    This was my stab at this issue …
    http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-ongoing-adoption-ethics-discussion.html

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    • “Simmering in the same sauce.” Yes. Ain’t it nice to find kindreds every now and then? You and Troy are among them.

      *Note to everyone* Read everything Tara Livesay writes on this topic. Follow her link!!!

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  12. Justin

    Long overdue! Thank you.

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    • Thanks for dropping in Justin.

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  13. Nailed it.

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  14. What an important part of this conversation to tackle, and you’ve done it so well. I especially appreciated how you’ve highlighted our need to ask the tough questions- not to necessarily have the answers.

    I know adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents are scared to ask these questions, I don’t blame them, but they need to- constantly.

    I see this happen more times than I’d like to admit, being an American Christian, working in the context of orphan care in sub-Saharan Africa- It can get a bit embarrassing. This “God told me to” syndrome.

    I, admittedly, go back and forth from being a total cynic to praying and asking God to grant me patience and understanding of adoptive parents who are (much of the time unknowingly) involved in the injustice we find going on in adoption from here. They don’t really see what is going on from the inside. They haven’t met birth mothers who were lied to by agencies, they haven’t watched lawyers and adoption agencies convince bio families their kids would be “better off in America”, they haven’t seen falsified death certificates of blood relatives, they haven’t had countless conversations with biological families where they were able to ask “Would you have signed away the rights to your child had an alternative been offered?” and have the families answer “No” nearly every time. They don’t see it and they want to believe their adoption agency/orphanage is exempt from all of it. I get it.

    So, if you’re an adoptive parent or a potential adoptive parent and are reading this, know that I am thankful that you are willing to listen. These conversations are hard when all you’re after is to parent a child who needs a home. The confusion in where to go and who to trust in the process- THAT must be challenging for someone who is really interested in making sure you don’t commit injustice while looking to “do justice for the orphan”.

    I believe, as you really seek God in all of this- He’ll never ask you to do anything that requires you to use His name or His sovereignty to justify unethical, far from best-practice care for children, regardless of where in the world you are looking to adopt from.

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    • Your last paragraph?

      Yup… couldn’t have said it any better.

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  15. Terry Webster

    Seth, this is an excellent article. As a Pastor, I have written several letters of recommendations for people who have been looking to adopt internationally. Reading this makes me realize that I need to be better informed along with these families as they go through the process of adoption. There will be some difficult questions for me to ask of hopeful parents. I appreciate your good words.

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    • Thanks, Terry. And one thing I’d add to the list of questions you ask prospective parents: are you engaged in adopting from a particularly “hot” country? Adoption ethics advocates have noted for years that when one particular hotbed of corruption closes and shuts down, another opens. (See the shift from Ethiopia to the Congo for instance).

      Thanks for reading!

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  16. The piece, including all comments, is a much needed education for me. Thanks to all.

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    • Gary,

      Somehow I missed your comment in this bru-ha-ha. Glad you stopped in here. Thanks for learning with us.

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  17. Seth,

    Thank you for this…it’s a conversation that really has no space & this is exactly what needs to happen to wrestle through very complex topics.

    If I may…as an adoptive parent, I know it’s personally hard to sit within these conversations because I view it through the lens of my own experience and the right/wrong questions that were asked or decisions that were made. If I am really transparent…she is my daughter and no one could pry her from hands.

    However, as an adoptive parent, I do have an obligation to sit here, listen, and do all that I can to open wide the eyes of everyone in this space. We must be an active part of God’s redeeming work in this world and the results of those actions can not be at the expense of ignorance. Nor, can my ignorance be veiled as “God’s Sovereignty.” This debate isn’t about the intention of adoptive families; however, adoptive families often see that as the first wall that must be defended.

    Adoption is needed…I would never argue that it isn’t. However, if there is a way a child can stay with their birth family…that must be the priority. Find me someone who disagrees with that.

    As an adoptive parent, I would also offer my support (for whatever that is worth) that you do not have to be an adoptive parent to be “qualified” to speak into this space. Additionally, because I am an adoptive parent that does not give me the “qualification” to speak into this space either. A proper discussion would ensure that all who are working within God’s story must be present because it ensures that we are not too quick to come to decisions without proper context. Your voice here is doing just that…please move confidently forward.

    Finally, with respect to the original context of this post…you nailed it.

    All is grace…

    Reply
    • “Adoption is needed…I would never argue that it isn’t. However, if there is a way a child can stay with their birth family…that must be the priority. Find me someone who disagrees with that.”

      Dude, I love you. And I’m not just whistling Dixie.

      Reply
  18. I was fortunate to catch this blog posting as someone shared in social media. Thanks for writing from your experience and what the Lord put on your heart. I’m curious about the gathering as it would be great to join another group in the orphan care movement! Please comment or reply by email at your convenience. Thank you. Blessings…

    Reply
    • Jordan,

      I’m so sorry I missed this email. The group is the Idea Camp. We are a rag-tag group of infrequently meeting people. You can, however, keep up with our meetings (and come!) via the web. http://theideacamp.com/

      Reply
  19. Darby Priest

    Seth, thanks so much for your follow up and exploration of the ‘basement convo.’ I walked away that day with many of the same thoughts. We can’t use God’s sovereignty as a rubber stamp of approval for our good intentions. For me, the fact that our good intentions sometimes do as much harm as our bad intentions emphasizes our need for a true Savior. Even at our best and purest, we cannot save ourselves, let alone someone else. So grateful for you teachers, leaders and veterans in this conversation.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Darby. And thanks for letting us learn from you, too.

      Reply
  20. RuDee

    I so want to know what this conference is.

    Reply
  21. I am now officially kicking myself for not making it to that conference!

    I loved this, bro. So grateful for your winsome way of addressing difficult topics.

    Reply
  22. I have a question.
    I’m from a fairly poor part of the country, and while we don’t have “orphanages,” I’ve worked with orphans. Tons and tons of teenage girls who have been waiting to get adopted.
    I get frustrated when I see all the ads for international adoption. Why don’t I see as much for domestic? And why does it seem everyone wants to adopt a little baby from Africa or China, but no on will take the crack-addicted children from down the road?
    Maybe it’s two questions.

    Reply
    • Amber,

      Thanks for your questions. I wish there were easy answers for this. It’s a nuanced discussion, and I truly hope you see the tides shift in the coming days.

      Reply

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