Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A defense of supporting adoptions

"Do you have any idea how many people you could help with that money? You're wasting it on one child!"

"I only give to local charities or my local church since the Bible says to. So I cannot support your foreign adoption."

"Why should I help you expand your family?"

"If you can't come up with your adoption fees ($25,000) on your own then you shouldn't be adopting. You should provide for your own child not ask others to."

"Children are better in their home country, even in institutions. You should give that money to the country instead."

These are some of the things that have been said to me after we decided to adopt a child with arthrogryposis and save him from transfer to an institution. In this blog post I hope to shed light on why I believe with my whole being that adoption should be supported.

"Do you have any idea how many people you could help with that money? You're wasting it on one child!"

I hope to argue that an investment into an orphan's life, foreign or not, is a valid investment that is not inferior to a charitable act which spreads the financial net a bit wider to help many. I consider both not only valid, but also on equal footing.

My husband and I support the efforts of AMF (Against Malaria Foundation) to provide malaria nets to those who live in malaria infested parts of the world. Statistically for every $2,000 given to AMF, one life is saved from the deadly malaria virus. We found out about this through GiveWell, a website who reviews charities and shows a top list of those who do the most good with your dollar. This appealed to us greatly since although you cannot put value on a human life, you can put a dollar amount to saving one human life: $2,000.

Feeding America is another charity that has my heart. Because of pooling their resources they say for every $1 donated to their cause they can turn that into 8 meals for hungry families. Personally I like Feeding America because it meets a very basic need in my own community.

My two examples are suppose to show that money donated to great causes can ease the suffering of many people, maybe even save a few lives. So how is that not superior to pouring $25,000 (the cost of our adoption) into one life? An excellent question for the philanthropist.

Firstly there must be some consideration to the longevity of giving. One meal feeds one person one time. One mosquito net covers one family's bed until that net is destroyed by daily use. Giving a child a lifelong home, parents, medical treatment, therapies and an education has a lasting positive impact that can't be easily quantified. Children who go on to be contributing members of (a wealthier) society, generate income and help support others cannot be overvalued. Because of the situation in Eastern Europe an institutionalized child goes from being a drain on society and having zero potential to having unlimited potential once adopted. Because it is hard to quantify the potential of this adopted child it is hard to argue charitable giving towards adoption as more valuable than charitable giving to a broader source. But that is my point exactly: $25,000 can save 12.5 people from malaria. $25,000 can save one child, plus any others he has the potential of helping in his lifetime. And that could be less than 12.5 or many, many more.

"I only give to local charities or my church since the Bible says to. So I cannot support your foreign adoption."

I appreciate the idea that one saves their money to support their immediate family first, then the community around them, and then, in an ever-widening circle, strangers in foreign countries. But I also believe we should reverse that circle of support when the poverty of strangers is vastly greater to our own. (I'm assuming my readers' families are not starving.) The Bible text that was referenced during this conversation was 1 Timothy 5:8 which says, "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

In the context of 1 Timothy 5:8 they are discussing who should care for the widows in their community. They conclude that this falls to the children and grandchildren of these widows, and if a widow has no children, then the church community will care for her. In other words, a person who lives as he pleases while his widowed mother is suffering in poverty is a bad person. Paul implies that even the unbelievers know how to take care of their own mothers.

What is not stated here is the exclusion of helping foreigners. 1 Timothy 5:8 only applies to my adoption if I chose to start the adoption process while my widowed mother or grandmother was suffering financially.

As far as the Bible stating to support "your own" (the Greek word for household there is oikeios but can imply your own local charities, groups, people of the same faith, or blood relatives), I have found that is true, but not to the exclusion of foreign aid. (In fact God's heart is with the foreigner as I will attempt to prove shortly.) In the early church there was a structure in place kind of like communism on a small scale and Paul sums up how it worked beautifully in 2 Corinthians 8:

13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.

A lot of giving in the Bible (New Testament) has to do with this set up. Although we do not hold this kind of set up in churches today I do see many good people supporting those in need in their communities.

As for God's laws regarding the foreigner, the conversation moves beyond a few epistles and goes all throughout Scripture. In fact God demands care for the foreigner and the orphan in many of the same passages. The foreigner is sometimes called "the alien" or "the stranger." The orphan is sometimes called "the fatherless" and can be a foreigner or a local member of the community.

(I include a lot of Scripture to make a point about what the Bible actually teaches regarding my foreign adoption. Feel free to skip or skim.)

Deuteronomy 10:18 - He (God) executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the foreigner by giving him food and clothing.

Deuteronomy 14:29 - The Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the foreigner, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

Deuteronomy 16:11 - And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite who is in your town, and the stranger (foreigner) and the orphan and the widow who are in your midst, in the place where the Lord your God chooses to establish His name.

Deuteronomy 16: 14 - And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter and your male and female servants and the Levite and the stranger (foreigner) and the orphan and widow who are in your town.

Deuteronomy 24:17 - You shall not pervert the justice due a foreigner or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge.
Deuteronomy 24:19-21 - When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the foreigner, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the foreigner, for the orphan, and for the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the foreigner, for the orphan, and for the widow.

Deuteronomy 26:12-13 - When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. You shall say before the Lord your God, “I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments.”

Deuteronomy 27:19 - “Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.” And all the people shall say, “Amen.”

Jeremiah 7:5-7 - For if you truly amend your ways and your deed, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave your father forever and ever.

Jeremiah 22:3 - Thus says the Lord, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”

Zechariah 7:10 - And do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.

Malachi 3:5 - "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts.

Psalm 146:9 - The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

(Okay I'm done.)

Everyone will pick and choose between foreign support and local support depending on what they value and who can use the most help. I'm not really here to advocate one over the other. But I do believe the heart of God is clearly for the orphan, the widow and the foreigner. My adopted son fits two of these three categories. Soon he'll fit none of those categories as God intended.

Moving on.

"Why should I help you expand your family?"

If you are part of a belief system that obeys the Bible then you are commanded to help the orphan and the foreigner, also the poor and the hungry. My son fits all those categories so is an excellent choice. (We're fully funded by the way, this was something asked a while back.) If I'm in your local church community it would be a biblical example played out. If you hold no spiritual beliefs then I could argue adoption as a way to better our community due to the cultural flavor my son brings to it. He also informs others about what family really means. And having physical disabilities, as has been argued, can help others in the areas of understanding, acceptance, compassion, perspective and responsibility. All in all I never thought fundraising for my adoption was a selfish act, nor do I expect everyone to help. But having people be offended at my fundraising baffles me. Why should you help bring my son home? For the same reason you should do any good thing. That's all. Don't then.

"If you can't come up with your adoption fees ($25,000) on your own then you shouldn't be adopting. You should provide for your own child not ask others to."

Ah yes, the "only rich people should adopt" mentality. I've also heard, "Fundraising for your adoption is just like welfare," and "If you can't come up with the money for your own child then you shouldn't be adopting at all. Period." Of all the above statements/questions I'm responding to in this post, this is the only one that was said unkindly. So as a lawyer would approach a hostile witness, I feel free to be blunt.

First let's define our terms. You may define "rich" differently depending on how much money you have. But let's put it this way, it costs between $25,000 to $45,000 for a foreign adoption. If you make $25,000 a year you are in the top 10% of the wealthiest people on earth. If you make $35,000 a year, congrats and welcome to the top 5%. $45,000 would put you in the top 1.72% of the richest people on earth. Do you get where I'm going with this? Coming up with a year's income in order to have a child qualifies you as a rich person.

So the above statement really boils down to this: Only rich people should adopt.

So far no one has come out to me and said this, but it's easily inferred.

We in the adoption community jokingly refer to the initial costs/fees of adoption as the "ransom." We don't have it, but we have a limited time to come up with it. And they have our child. Now I'm not here to defend how the money is used by lawyers or foreign governments, or to say there are no abuses in the system, but rest assured the price of adoption fees will not be going down, and they are necessary to move a child's life, residential status and future to an entirely different country. Not having this initial sum does not mean we cannot support a child, even one with extreme medical needs. In fact a homestudy must be done that assesses the financial stability, overall health, home situation and emotional maturity of both adoptive parents by a licensed social worker. After we've been stripped down and laid bare by professionals (over a period of weeks or months), I'm hard pressed to hear we're unworthy by anonymous people on the Internet.

So those who do not believe we should adopt because we "cannot provide" are not accurate since we have been vetted. But really the issue is that we did not pull out of our pocket the entire ransom for our son which only the top few wealthiest people on the planet could. (In our case we did empty our savings account, get a temporary second job and budget for a while so harshly that we couldn't buy milk or bread. That last sacrifice didn't last, but a healthy budget is in place now.)

Tell me something. Should minorities not have children? Should those making less than $30,000 not be allowed to become pregnant? Does equality matter? Does family matter? Are children dying in institutions for lack of parents important? I'm not saying you will agree with me on all these issues, but I'm saying a disagreement shows a prejudice I cannot begin to reason with.

The rich get all the breaks.

"Children are better in their home country, even in institutions. You should give that money to the country instead."

And lastly, there's this statement, "Children are better where they are." It was said simply, gently and thoughtfully, which just made it worse. I've found that people who say this have never done an in-depth study on my son's situation. Allow me to illuminate his situation.

You've probably read blogs about the torture that goes on over in Eastern Europe to those with disabilities, maybe you've seen a video about it, maybe you've read about a life saved from it or maybe you know nothing at all. I can't begin to go into all the abuses happening over there, or even point out which orphanages are doing it better or worse, but I can give you a picture of it using my own son's example.

When my son turns five years old (maybe four, maybe three, or in one case I read about, two) he will be put in a car and driven screaming and crying or quiet and terrified to an adult mental institution out in the country where no one visits and no one has to deal with the imperfect people who live there. Now my son does not have any mental disabilities, but this is where people in EE who look different are thrown away. It's a system so mired in political and social gunk that fixing it seems impossible, although there are small efforts to do so. As it stands now, only adoption can save these kids from this fate. Children transferred to the institution have PTSD, they are not held, they are tied down in cribs (even into their teens) and changed once a day. Sometimes not changed on weekends. They have sores from lying in their own urine and feces. They have no one to talk to. They chew on their hands and arms and rock themselves for stimulation. They are fed what amounts to a cabbage stew crammed down their throats. Some institutions are better and some are worse, but the term "good institution" is an oxymoron. I've heard statistics from 85%-95% of children who are transferred die within the first 12-18 months. I hear it's the higher percentage if you have Down's syndrome. They are buried in the backyard.

In a provocative work called, "Death Camps for Children" those who have been to these places (that still exist even years later) report what they've seen:

“When we arrived at the orphanage we were met by older children without coats, they were begging us to give things to them and not to the directors. It is very hard to write about the rest of this part of the trip. I cannot give a step by step account because we were all in a state of shock. We spoke to the director about our program and he told us that he knows the children need more but he said, ‘I cannot ask my workers to do more, they work very hard, clearing the road, shoveling snow, cleaning the floors and the children, they have not time, they must work very hard all day and then they must dig graves and bury children.’ What do you say to that? Still, the staff took us around to show us how it is. Words don’t come to mind, most of our team was crying and could not stop. Dark hallways, screaming, children clustered together in freezing rooms, some in strait-jackets, haunted looking crying, asking if they were good, asking for food. Water dripping from the dark ceilings, mold everywhere. We held children who were 10 and 13 years old in our arms like infants. One team member said later that she never knew that humans are like fish and will only grow to the size of their environment. One team member threw up outside. Children never leave their beds in some rooms. These children are ages 4-16. In other rooms they leave to go to a room with just a bench and nothing else in it. They hold each other -rocking one another. I have never seen such deprivation and our photographer said it best when he said it was a concentration camp for children. Sorry, this is such a hard part to write but I looked in the eyes of many children who are dying. Their tiny bones fit into the palm of my hands. Their skeleton faces begging for help. No one in our team has really slept since. We talk about it but just end up in tears. I promised the orphanage staff we would come back with a team of people to help them. They are counting on it. The director told one team member that 20 years ago he asked for help there and the soviet minister came and visited. The visiting soviet minister told the director, ‘why do you keep these animals alive? You can kill them, you know how to do it you are a doctor.’ He never sent any money or aid to the orphanage.” (

For those who say to leave them where they are, because even if their own society does not consider them fully human it's better for them somehow, I leave you with these images from

But it's a situation not without hope. Here's some hope from one of my favorite adoption blogs.

This is ten year old Katy suffering in her institution. (She weighed 10 pounds.)

This is Katy six months after being adopted. (She's up to 27 pounds.)
So you tell me, should we leave them there?


  1. This was so well done, thank you. I'm bookmarking it for future reference. I'm not an adoptive parent but have supported many of the children of RR and families adopting through RR. Bless your family for seeing the truth and stepping forward. I hope you are rewarded beyond your wildest dreams one day.

  2. Alexis I think it's wonderful that you are adopting this wonderful little boy, and I know you are doing what God has called you to do, so don't worry about the others say. :)

    1. In this case it was good for me to research more about my own decisions. So much to think about. (Brain hurts now.) Thanks Randi!

  3. I have been reading your blog for a long time and like it a lot. This post has some great points to it and you´ve researched it well. I however admit to certain hesitation when it comes to supporting adoptions. While I am absolutely 100% in for adopting a child and saving, what makes me hesitate to financially support people is the fact that people seem to come to it with a superior attitude (or so it seems in their blogs). It seems like "We´re gonna adopt. It´s God´s bill, not mine and if you don´t financially support me you are not a Christian". It seems that people decide to adopt and then expect other´s to pay for their adoption and if you don´t, you are bad. And that they will have to do nothing. Their adoption expenses will allbe paid by someone else.

    I financially support families and am willing to do so but I also feel that the adoptive family should do their share. Fundaise, bring awareness, be willing (if possible) to cut back on certain things to financially support the adoption and other things. I know 99% of families do this but the 1% percent makes me hesitant. People that seem to make the donations for granted and approach it with a superior attitude.

    Those are my 5 cents :)

    1. I know those people! I read their blogs! It feels like getting slapped in the face sometimes! And then after we announced we were adopting, they were all, "It's about time." Ha!

      The other side of the coin (now that I'm in all these private groups of adopting peeps) is that they are all deeply sad that more people don't care about their adoptions and aren't supporting them. They don't know how they come across when they throw around that God (obviously) threw a golden light beam in their eyes and can't we all support the Good Lord's work? :) :) :) Then they don't get why people don't want to support them and they cry a lot.

      When really all they've been telling their supporters unintentionally is that, "Hey I'm adopting and you're not. I'm right and you're wrong."

      It's sad and I feel you on this.

      I write about my feelings on helping the orphan but not being in a position to adopt here:

  4. Thank you SO much for writing this, Alexis. Well spoken! SO well said!!!!

  5. Alexis, I am blessed by what you and Charley are doing - and I know little Roland will be blessed to have you as parents. Ignore the critics - you could live a seemingly perfect life and still be weight, measured, and found wanting by someone for something. I am praying for you and your family. I am thankful for the many who have added to what you and Charley could come up with so that Roland can come home - the fact that God provided through so many is evidence enough that it's His will. Those who read don't have to give - nor do they need to rip you apart if they disagree with you. They don't have to agree: they are not the ones called to minister that way. It's wrong for us to ream others for something God hasn't called US to do! God bless you for your careful explanations and great biblical support for having open hearts, homes, and pocketbooks! Praying for you all! Melody

    1. Thanks Melody! That means a lot. Something I've said before is that I used to believe all of those statements. Then I didn't anymore and it was hard to explain why. So after hearing what I once believed said to me (and being on the other side of things) it led to me doing a lot of research. I believe all of those negative views can be changed once we reason together. Of course I hold no hope for the Internet trolls, but who knows.