The Five of Us, Spring 2014

The Five of Us, Spring 2014

So You Think You Should Adopt? Please Don't.

25 June 2011

I’m a huge advocate for adoption. I love it. It is an absolutely miraculous way to create or expand a family. I am extremely passionate about adoption and desire to help those on the adoption pathway in any way I can. Because of that passion and because we have adopted twice (once internationally, once domestically) and because I worked for an agency for a short time, I often find myself being asked for advice on the topic. Just the other day, a friend messaged me to ask specifically about motivation to adopt. The topic really got my juices bubbling and I want to share more publicly what I said to him.

It seems to me that interest in adoption is growing and while that makes my heart glow with hope, it also creates a hitch in my spirit. Since joining the adoption community in 2005, I have seen many happy families created or grown; I have born witness to many successful adoptions. But, I have also seen a discouraging number of failed adoptions. Most of us heard about the child whose mother sent him back to Russia alone last year ( This news was shocking and horrifying. But it isn’t the only story of its kind. When I worked with the agency, I saw two children returned to their birth country under similar circumstances. And, I have heard of many, many more failed adoptions through the grapevine over the years. It’s tremendously disheartening to think of the emotional trauma created for children and families who find themselves in these positions. I understand that the families feel there is no other option available to them and I recognize they experience their own emotional carnage related to their adoption disruptions. And, even some parents with right motivations, good preparation, and lots of support can have trouble in their adoptions. But, I believe that at least some of these situations are preventable.

In the past, people adopted because they wanted to become parents. Almost all adoptive parents experienced infertility or secondary infertility. They simply wanted children (or more children) in their home, had the resources to raise them, and the compunction that children could be “our own” without coming from our bodies.

In recent years, adoption has begun to come to the forefront of the American Christian psyche. There is, in fact, a Christian adoption movement. And, a lot of good is coming from that (although I agree with them that there is much ground yet to be won). People are realizing that adoption is a positive (albeit challenging) way to grow a family. However, many well-intentioned people, stirred by the Bible’s clear injunctions to care for widows and orphans (Ex. 22:22, Deut. 10:18, 14:29, 24:17, PS 68:5, 82:3, Isa. 1:17,Jer 22:3, Zec 7:10) and Jesus’ plain instruction on caring for “the least of these” (Mat. 25:40,45), and taking a cue from our Heavenly Father’s spiritual adoption of each of us, consider adoption as the best way to obey these commands. I believe that is flat-out wrong. This “rescue-the-children” mentality is at the root of many adoptive parents’ dissatisfaction with their adoption experience as well as the fundamental reason some adoptions fail.

This rescue mentality can seem to blind people from their usual common sense. People seem to think that somehow an adoptable child is inherently good and, given the right environment, he will quickly and totally recover from his early trauma. But, these same parents, if they knew the next door neighbor kid had been involved in a gang even if only for survival, or had been sexually abused and learned to become an abuser herself, had learned to steal and horde to have food—would they bring that child over for a slumber party, let alone to be a permanent part of the family and share a room with their perfectly sheltered toddler? The reality is that many kids who have a less-than-ideal foundation (from malnourishment to neglect to abuse of any kind) can make great strides in their new families, but it isn’t instantaneous or even easy. Recovery for the child may demand an exceptionally high degree of commitment, advocacy, patience, selflessness, and persistence from the parent(s).

Another problem for parents who want to be a child’s savior is that adopted kids rarely feel much gratitude toward the family that has “rescued” them. From the children’s perspective, the adoptive family has ripped them away from everything they’ve ever known, the place they truly belonged. Far from appreciating all that the adoptive family can provide, the children are traumatized and grieved. These emotions and problems may surface immediately, or may develop over time, but at some point in an adoptive family’s life, they most likely will have to face this beast head-on. Adoption is far from ideal and adoptive parents who set themselves up as some kind of rescuing hero are setting themselves up for a fall. Unfortunately, many blame the children for the tumble from their pedestal, with tragic results.

This desire to rescue children from poverty can have devastating effects that reach far beyond the adoptive family. Not long ago there was a surge of people wanting to rescue impoverished kids in Guatemala. Rather than saving a generation of children, the situation ended up creating a black-market for healthy infants where babies were being stolen from loving mothers so they could be sold for adoption to well-meaning American couples ( This, and similar situations, led to the closure of legitimate inter-country adoptions not only in Guatemala, but also in other countries which feared a similar fate for their children. Rarely is there a glut of healthy infants available internationally; even the poorest mothers want to breastfeed and care for their children as long as they can. If you're saying your primary motivation is to save a child’s life, but you only want a healthy infant (and you want to do it internationally so you don't have to deal with messy birth family issues) you have missed the point entirely.

I said above that these adoption failures could be prevented. If those who wish to adopt would take a serious look at their motivation, be honest with themselves before God and their spouses (where applicable), and take steps ensure their hearts are truly in the right place, it’s true—many of these sad stories would never occur.

For Aa and me, we stumbled into adoption because of secondary infertility. We conceived Punk easily when we wanted to, but we couldn’t get pregnant again (not for lack of trying!). We started our adoption journey because we wanted another child in our family. Honestly, we did like the idea that we were entering into a new understanding of the Father’s adoptive heart toward us and that we were obeying the Bible’s commands about orphans. And, in the end, I do believe we saved Pea’s life. If she hadn’t been adopted, she would have died. But, that wasn’t why we adopted her.

I think adoption is a lot like marriage—it’s a huge commitment, for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer. You are binding yourself to another person whose history you only know in part and whose future you cannot predict. When you adopt a child, you are committing to love and treat them as though they had come from your own body, without any guarantees about how the relationship will go. One adoptive mother who struggled in her relationship with her adopted daughter put it this way: “Unless you can imagine loving and being committed to a child even if they would NEVER love you, don't adopt.”

If you are considering adoption because it seems like the right thing to do, because you want to save a child from poverty, because you want to be the best Christian you can be, because you want to be hero, PLEASE DON’T DO IT. I cannot stress strongly enough the disaster that may ensue for you, your family, and the child(ren) you adopt if you enter into it for these reasons.

These motivations are not wrong in themselves. They are just not appropriate to adoption. As a Christian, you do need to step up and defend the fatherless. You do need to extend yourself on behalf of the widow, orphan, and the least of the least. As James 1:27 puts it, “Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles.” (emphasis mine) It’s non-negotiable. But, these commands do not require us to adopt.

There are many other ways to fulfill these injunctions. In fact, adoption is really only a band-aid solution in the first place. It does nothing to address the needs of the birth family or the culture (domestic or foreign) into which the needy child was born. Advocating on behalf of the poor and contributing to transformational ministries which lift people out of poverty are very effective ways to create real, lasting change. Look into providing micro-loans for entrepreneurs in struggling economies. Or, support and promote organizations like Sports Outreach Ministries which is transforming the lives of Uganda’s inner-city slum children as well as families in rural villages of Northern Uganda in both practical and spiritual ways.

Most of the world’s adoptable children aren’t orphans in the truest sense; most have at least one living parent. They are adoptable because of poverty (this is true in the US and abroad). The exception to this is AIDS orphans. You can make a real difference and save children’s lives by advocating for ARV treatments in Africa and India and other places hit hard by the disease. Compassion, International has a stellar program for helping HIV+ mothers avoid transmission to their infants, as well as preventing infant mortality from other causes and helping the mothers live longer, stronger lives. Find out more at

Right here at home, you can make a real difference by backing ministries that support women in unplanned pregnancies (our local Lifeline is in dire need of diapers!) or mentoring an impoverished child. If you want an even more hands-on experience, apply for your foster-care license. It’s absolutely free to get started and it’s not a life-long commitment like adoption is. Many counties/states are desperate for solid, willing foster families.

In short, I want to let you off the hook. You don’t have to adopt! And, adopting doesn’t make you a hero or a better Christian. If you want to adopt for those reasons, please find an alternative. If you want to adopt because you desire to parent a child and are willing to face the challenges and difficulties that accompany adoption, I’ll be your biggest support!


Natalie at Our Old Southern House said...

love this rachel. sooooo good.
we have secondary infertility (though it did take over a year to get pregnant with our first too) and the reason we choose to adopt is to have another child. it amazed me how many people were like, 'oh, they are going to be soooo blessed to have--you're saving them!' when we told them we were adopting.
i'm not trying to save anyone, i just want to be their mother.
i'm adopted myself and while my parents are fabulous in every way they didn't try to save me or do it to be a "good christian"...they just wanted a child. they never had that savior mentality and i never saw them as such. they were just my parents (as it should be!).
i loved your post. love it love it love it.
(we're still meeting with CC in august, but we have also signed on w/lifeline. you said they need diapers? i had no idea! are you talking about the one in columbus? let me know b/c i'd be more than willing to send them some!)

Carolyn said...

Great post Rachel. I can't agree more with your belief that adoption is like marriage (forever). Thanks for explaining so well.

Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in foster care or adoption needs to read this!

A. Gillispie said...

I really feel that your words were inspired. Thank you so very much for writing this post! May I share your words on my blog? You really expressed my heart on this matter.

Rae said...

Thank you, friends.

Yes, Anita, you have my blessing to repost this. It took a bit of courage to put it out there, but I did it because I believe there are folks who need to consider what I've said. I'm glad to have found support for this perspective so far. I'll pop over to your blog sometime to see what response you get from it!

Tasha Via said...

So good to read this perspective. I feel like everybody feels like they need to adopt, whether they are called to it or not, whether their current family is falling apart at the seems...

This is an excellent post! Thanks for sharing your heart on such a touchy subject!

sue said...

This information needs to be considered regardless of whether a person is adopting because they have fertility issues or not. Disruptions also happen to people who have adopted because they can't have bio children. The key here is education and preparation for ALL adoptive parents, prior to adopting. Agencies and social workers need to educate and prepare people better, of the potential realities and possibilities and most of them are not doing it. Prior to our adoptions, I did so much more homework and preparation on my own for becoming an adoptive parent, way beyond what our social worker or agency required. I have not had fertility issues and have been blessed with adopted and biological children. I can have biological children, but that did not make me want my adopted children any less. And there are many others out there with bio & adopted children that feel the same way as I. I wanted them just as much as my biological children, so please be careful here. God put adoption on our heart, and I am so grateful He did, or my adopted children would not be with us today.

Rae said...

Thanks for adding your perspective, Sue. I didn't mean to imply that only people experiencing infertility should adopt. I agree that there are many people who can and do have bio kids that are also well-suited to adopt and that the key is careful education and evaluation. Thanks for highlighting these ideas!

sue said...


After I left my comment, I realized I was being very sensitive (because I love my children so much) and I was going to delete the comment, but for some reason it won't let me. I do not want to cause strife. I believe it is vital that adoptive parents receive more education and preparation prior to adopting than what they are getting. I know your intentions on your blog are good.

Cynthia said...

LOVE this post! It is something that I have been thinking too but not able to put into words as I read other blogs and get that inner feeling of concern. We have adopted domestically (13 years ago) and are now adopting twins internationally. It is NOT easy!!! I thought we would never adopt again! But, with time and tons of patience (mostly with dealing with the "professionals" LOL!) We have survived and come out the other side feeling so glad that we did it. I have been worried about some of the families and their motives and how sad it will be for all involved when the fantasy crashes down. :-( Thank you...well said! Hopefully it will help others to think carefully first....

Jodie said...

Great post! You put into words much better than what we have tried to say a number of times on our own blog. It is so hard for friends and family to understand that our primary motivation for adoption is purely selfish. We want a family.

CarrieT said...

I found you as a link from Anita's blog. You have a beautiful family.

I agree with you 100%!!! I especially love the part that if you are adopting because you think you should, don't!!! I agree that the only reason to adopt is because you want to grow your family.

I think this applies also to "should we keep adopting?" and "should we adopt children with SNs?" Some Christian blogs I have read sort of imply that we should all adopt as many as we can squeeze into our homes!!
And (they imply) if the kids have serious special needs, all the better!!

I admit it is hard to see the waiting children photos and not be moved, but our family is complete with our 4 children. I do not think (for us!) we would be good parents to more than that and we don't think God is calling us to that. We have prayed about it and discussed it a lot and we feel our lives are full and complete now.

Of course some couples and parents ARE called and gifted to adopt large families. Definitely this is true!! But God does not call or equip all of us for that. Same for SN adoption. We DO have 1 with serious SNs and she is a
BIG blessing, and also a BIG challenge. I can totally see how without preparation and prayer and a lifelong committment to her, an adoption like hers could easily lead to disruption or divorce for the parents.

Definitely we can all pray about it and see how God leads, and He can change our hearts and prepare us for things we might not have first considered. But do not keep adopting more and more children and do not adopt a child with SNs just because you think you SHOULD.

Super post!!

Carrie T. - mom to 4 from Korea

Kayla said...

I stumbled upon your blog and wanted to leave a quick comment. I am a fellow Christian hoping to begin the adoption process soon. I so very much agree with your words in this post and think that you need to want to be a "mother" before you can try to be a "savior". However, I want to add that I know several wonderful, well intentioned people who have chosen to build their families through adoption and it is not because of infertility. It is because they felt it was something God placed on their hearts and it is a way they are hoping to help a child in need feel love, support, and safety throughout their life and more Importantly, give them a chance to know our Lord and Savior. There is nothing wrong  with having a heart to love these children that God has specifically called us to care for. No, you will not be blessed just because you are "saving" a child because only God can truly "save"us. However, it is a bit of a far and wide reaching statement to state that you should only adopt in you are infertile. Again, please don't take this in a negative way. I just don't want posts like this to discourage Christian families from adopting. People come to adoption for many reasons. It is not up to us to decide which are justified in their decisions and which are not. It is encouraging to read about families like yours. I hope your family continues to be blessed!

Kayla said...

I also don't think that is what you were implying! I know your intentions in this post are based around proper education which is sooo important. I completely agree that these poor families and children that you mentioned could have been spared so much heartache!

Kayla said...

I also don't think that is what you were implying! I know your intentions in this post are based around proper education which is sooo important. I completely agree that these poor families and children that you mentioned could have been spared so much heartache!

Rae said...


Thanks for your response(s!). I never meant to say that only infertile people SHOULD adopt, only that in the past, before adoption became popular, it was only infertile people who adopted. Now that adoption is "vogue," I'm afraid more people are adopting because they feel they should, not primarily because they want to parent children. You're right that I want people to know they have options and to adequately educate themselves before delving into this challenging commitment. My main point is to let people off the hook who feel they MUST adopt to fulfill God's Word.

Anonymous said...

Rachel, I thought this was a great post--full of wisdom and insight. I linked to it on my blog, I hope you don't mind. In light of our two failed adoptions, it pretty much sums things up.

In Christ, Laura

Michelle said...

Seeing adoptions from the foreign point of view, I have to say that I am happy to find someone state side who is also seeing what I am seeing. I am all for "responsible adoption"

So glad I found your blog (I linked this post) and will be following in the future!


SocialWrkr24/7 said...

I just was sent here from another blog and am sooo happy to read this! I absolutely agree and have been increasingly worried that many Christians feel adoption is a mandate from God... without considering or understanding what it all truly emcompasses. Thank you for posting this - I'll be tweeting a link to it!

vcpetzoo said...

A friend of mine sent me the link to your blog as this was a topic of discussion at our bible study recently. My husband & I have had a heart to adopt, initially because we thought we would be unable to have children of our own. We since have had 2 boys. We will not be having any more biological children, but have not ruled out adoption in the future. Reading your blog about the motivation behind adopting has not deterred me from it because our intentions are to be parents through good and bad, however it has given an additional perspective & food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog. Thank you sharing these words of wisdom. We never began any adoption process, but briefly talked about it (and I read a few books too). I realized my motivations was more of "a hero" or "savior" mode. I've always had a passion for world missions and outreach so adoption seemed like the right thing to do. Thank you for sharing alternatives on how we "non-adopted" parents can still be involved. I did Big Brother/Big Sister for six years and would like to do that again...or we've talked about fostering in a few years. Right now we are sponsoring a child internationally and supporting with prayers and encouragement our friends who were called to adopt internationally.

Cate said...

I just stumbled across your blog for the first time, and I think I will have to keep stumbling over it! You just put perfectly into words something that has been niggling at the back of my mind ever since I entered the adoption blogosphere. It seems to me that when it comes to your own family, "duty" and "love" are simply never going to be the same thing! Thank you for making me think a bit!

Jen Hutchison said...

incredibly well said. as an adoption homestudy professional, I wanted to ask if you would mind me handing out a copy of this post to families that I work with. This topic comes up time and time again and I have not been able to put my feelings into words nearly as well as you have here. Thank you.

Jen Hutchison said...

incredibly well said. as an adoption homestudy professional, I wanted to ask if you would mind me handing out a copy of this post to families that I work with. This topic comes up time and time again and I have not been able to put my feelings into words nearly as well as you have here. Thank you.

Rae said...


Thank you for your kind words. I would be more than pleased for the message to be spread however it can be. You can print and hand out the post, or direct people to the blog (or both). Feel free to share with other professionals as well, if you would like to.


Nungari M. said...

You have said it well!

Linda Watt said...

This really resonnates with me. I work with missionaries who are adopting in their country of service. I have never heard any of them use this as a reason to adopt. However, I have read a lot of blogs and it seems like it is "cool" for Christians to adopt. everyone is getting on the bandwagon to save the orphans. I think what you have presented is carefully thought out and I am with you on this.

Margie said...

Bravo, well said. This message is one that needs to be shared over and over and over.

LilySea said...

In fact, there is a good argument that intercountry adoption is a exactly the opposite of what the Bible is asking when we are commanded to care for widows and orphans. "Widows-and-orphans" are really a unit. Separating mothers and children is in fact, sinful, when not absolutely necessary.
But David Smolin says it better than I, in this excellent, carefully biblical article:

tyleragent said...

Thanks for the post, and my partner and I are thinking about adoption. But we're still deciding if we still want to actually go through with it. Because we haven't told any of our family members yet. So we might break the news to them first.

My Man and Me

My Man and Me
married 7/7/2001


ours through biology, born 7/25/2004, home 8/1/2004


ours through adoption from Liberia, West Africa, born 7/15/2005, home 10/25/2007


ours through domestic adoption, born 1/15/2011, home 2/10/2011, final 8/3/2011

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Round Two Timeline

  • 9/24/08 Home study update home visit for Ghana adoption
  • 10/15/08 Dossier sent to AOHG
  • 10/15/08 I600A application sent to USCIS
  • 10/30/08 First heard about possible domestic private adoption
  • 11/18/08 Last spoke with contact about possible domestic adoption; expected to hear back about meeting with birthmother
  • 12/3/08 Withdrew application from AOHG
  • 1/6/09 Found out another family had been chosen for possible domestic adoption
  • 1/21/09 USCIS fingerprinting appointment
  • 1/8/09 Received USCIS fingerprinting appointment notice
  • 4/11/09 Sent Pre-Application to Covenant Care Adoptions for Domestic Infant Adoption program
  • 6/8/09 Social worker visit to update home study from International to Domestic
  • 7/24/09 Received completed home study update
  • 8/25/09 Went "on the list" for birthfamilies to choose from
  • 4/28/10 Found out a birth mom had chosen us
  • 5/8/10 Met the birth mom
  • 5/11/10 Got the call that birth mom changed her mind
  • 5/19/10 Birth mom's scheduled c-section
  • 11/30/10 Visit from DSS sw about foster parenting
  • 11/30/10 Got the call that another birth mom had chosen us
  • 12/21/10 Met with the birth mom
  • 1/15/11 @1:42 PM BB was born!
  • 1/19/11 ICPC (interstate) paperwork sent to GA for approval
  • 1/31/11 ICPC Clearance Approved
  • 2/10/11 Placement Ceremony and Pup comes home!!!!
  • 8/3/11 It's Official! Pup's Adoption Decree was issued