When considering adoption, take the time to count the costs.
At the residential ministry where I serve, we are seeing a marked rise in the number of boys who are from adoptive homes. In fact, there are times when the majority of the boys are from adoptive homes, and this has not been the case throughout our 34-year history.
It appears that we are witnessing an emerging trend.
Many years ago we began to hear of the tragedy of “crack babies”; newborns delivered by mothers who had smoked crack cocaine during pregnancy. Twelve to fifteen years later we began to receive these children into our programs. Somewhat related to this is the trend we witnessed years ago (and is ongoing) of Christians adopting children, many of whom were adopted from overseas. Now we are receiving these kids into our programs. Though it will not be a popular statement with those who are championing foreign adoptions, it is my opinion that many who are considering adoption need to pump the brakes a bit and get more educated before they proceed.
Many children that are being adopted from foreign countries are being adopted during adolescence. This is a dramatically different scenario than adopting an infant. With the rise of this practice, a new label has been formed to stick on these kids, and we do love our labels. Often they are labeled as RAD, or showing the markers of Reactive Attachment Disorder, which in my experienced view is not a disorder at all. If you adopt a foreign adolescent and they actually attach to you as would a naturally born child that is amazing, and this is the statistical outlier. It may even be thought of as a “disorder” if they do attach well. It is most common that these children will not attach in a manner that displays loyalty, trust and the traits of an organic and healthy child-parent relationship. It is just not fair to expect an adopted adolescent to bond to an adoptive parent in a way that is, in our current cultural view, healthy and normal. Much more common will be isolation, rebellion, disassociation, an oppositional relationship, and in many cases actual physical confrontations.
We have had many of these kids in our program, and in speaking to them we see that many did not wish to be adopted. They were somewhat comfortable in an orphanage environment where they understood the dynamic and lived among those who shared their life stories. They understood the language and the culture of their native country, but when adopted were torn from all that was familiar and taken to a place where the language was difficult and the culture was bizarre and complicated. Immediately they fell behind in their education and faced a world with unfamiliar faces and noises that are not distinguishable. Many of these kids are mesmerized by the images of wealth and luxury possessions that they soon learn are out of their reach. In my view, in many circumstances adopting adolescents can be cruel if there is not significant relationship building prior to signing papers and booking flights back to America.
On top of these complications, is the fact that many countries manipulate the system, keeping healthy and well-adjusted kids and placing for adoption kids with disabilities, chronic health problems, or signs of mental illness. For the zealous couple just wanting to adopt and not adept at asking the right questions, they will soon find that they have bitten off much more than they can chew.
I recently spoke to a father who had adopted a young boy from Ghana. After listening to the horror story that had developed within his home, I shared an observation. I told him, “Sir, what you did when you adopted this boy is much like a man who lived in a nice one-bedroom apartment, who adopted the cutest little Great Dane puppy.” He replied, “Exactly. We had no idea what it would be like as he grew older”.
Behind the scenes, we refer to these boys as Twice Rejected. They were rejected by their birth parents, and when they come to us they feel rejected by their adoptive parents. And this is not just a problem with foreign born adoptions, but without getting educated and going into the challenge knowing that there will be deep trials and possibly heartbreaking seasons, no one should consider adoption. You need to be aware and educated regarding spiritual warfare, generational curses and chemical issues that affected the child in utero. Do not assume that this child will look lovingly to you as the one who rescued them from peril and that you will always be their hero. The reality is that this is not likely, and that your efforts and your sacrifices may be met with disdain and rejection. It may take much longer than you may think for them to show appreciation, and for some, it will never come.
Adopting a child is a selfless act that demonstrates a heart to share a better life with a displaced child, but it should only be pursued after deep introspection and a sober-minded assumption of the risks. Then pray. Pray before, during, and especially after that child enters your home. After all, your warfare prayers may be the one element that saves that young life. I’d never want to discourage anyone who has heard the voice of God calling them to adopt, but I would encourage everyone to get together with a family who has trod this path, learn about the unique challenges, and walk into this commitment with your eyes wide open.