Adoption: A Long and Winding Journey
A few years ago, after much research, discussion, and prayer, my husband and I sent in the preliminary applications for adopting from Ethiopia. The staff at the agency, Better Future Adoption Services (BFAS) in Minnesota, was courteous, and the fact that it was founded and directed by an Ethiopian Christian woman, Agitu Wodajo, seemed encouraging. We were nervous filling out the financial paperwork—we certainly weren't going to be any orphan's Daddy Warbucks—but we felt that material wealth was a less-important factor in deciding who will and will not parent well. (Recently, in researching for other writing, I discovered that less-affluent parents are actually more likely to spend more time sharing meals with their children than are wealthier parents.)
But BFAS didn't feel the same way. We had been students the year before we applied, so our tax returns showed us to be below poverty level, and that was apparently grounds enough for delaying our application another year at least. Add to that our upcoming inter-country move (from Germany back to the United States), and BFAS decided that we'd better not start our dossier with them just yet. Too bad, because adoptive parents can wait up to two years after completing their dossier to welcome their adopted child home.
Yet getting rejected turned out to be a very good thing. It wasn't too long before the Department of State warned that Ethiopia's Charities and Services Agency had revoked BFAS's license to operate in Ethiopia due to alleged "license misuse." That's the nice way of putting it. The less-sanitized words used in the letter from the Charities and Services agency were "child trafficking"—including falsifying documents to make children look like they were abandoned who, in fact, still had biological parents. (Under Ethiopian law, it's illegal for a child with living parents to be adopted.) We were stunned and grateful that we hadn't signed with the organization, as the State Department was urging parents with dossiers in progress to "seek legal aid."
News like this has made many Westerners wary of international adoption. A few months ago, a Nation article unflatteringly described the resurgence of interest in adoptions among evangelicals as a "crusade," inspired in large part by Russell Moore's popular book Adopted for Life. In the article, Kathryn Joyce positions Christian adoption enthusiasts as blustering, blundering consumers who could care less about the ethical dilemmas surrounding international adoption. Yes, I'm slightly uncomfortable when Moore says that adopted kids "don't know the flags of their home countries" but "know ‘Jesus Loves Me, " but I'm willing to take that statement along with careful and ethically reasoned perspectives Moore and other evangelicals offer. Jedd Medefind's response in Christianity Today was, I thought, a gracious one: Learn from the criticism. The ethical dilemmas surrounding adoption—and inter-country adoption especially—can't be avoided by loving Jesus, loving kids, and hoping for the best. But, as Medefind, writes:
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