Friday, July 12, 2013

helping a child versus increasing family size: motivation for adoption

what is the motivation for adoption?  is it to help a child in need or to increase the size of your family?

this is a hard question that i have been thinking through for the past couple of months.

'Shopping with dad' photo (c) 2013, John Mallon - license:
certainly, i would not argue that this is completely an either/or question.  the motivation for adoption should be both.  unfortunately, too many times parents are so eager to adopt that the emphasis is too heavily placed on increasing family size, often at the expense of actually helping the child (maybe because we pridefully assume the most helpful thing for the child is to be a part of our family).

this is an especially important question to ask in the situation of foster care adoption.  when a child is taken into foster care, the first priority is to work towards being able to reunify them with their birth parents.  if that doesn't work, the second priority is to place them for adoption/legal guardianship with a family member.  if neither of these two things happen, an adoptive family is sought out.

one of the difficult aspects of foster care adoption is the possibility of "losing" a child (ie the possibility of the child going back with their family after they are in your home).  if you want to adopt a young child (anything under 5 years old) you usually have to be open to taking in a child who is still in foster care, and that child will be in your care either until they are reunited or until they are open for adoption.  the problem is that parents can be so intensely focused on adoption that they are almost cheering for the birth parents to fail.  i know that this is true because i have felt these feelings and battled this pride.

it is important to the the best needs of the child first.  for a child to lose their parents is a tremendous loss, one that often haunts them for years, even if they are very young when they are adopted.  in fact, as hard as it was for me to accept this when i first heard it, studies do show that children who are able to be reunited with their birth families do better in the end than children who are adopted out of their families.  foster adoptive parents should be open to the idea that the best thing they can do to serve the children in their care is to give them a temporary good home (complete with lots of love and prayer and trust in God for that child's future), and if possible reach out to their birth family in order to help them be better parents when and if reunification happens.

of course, reunification is not always possible, and in that situation adoption is the best second option.  for kids in that situation, helping that child AND increasing your family size are one in the same.

for prospective adoptive families, this is an important question to ask yourselves, and certainly something to pray over: that God would give you wisdom as how to best help the child in your care, and also that God would grow your family (since children ARE a blessing and the desire to adopt a good thing) even if its not in the way/timing that you had previously planned.

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