This year, Orphan Sunday was acknowledged November 4th. In fact, the whole month of November is recognized as Adoption Awareness month.
My dear cousin worked with her pastor to organize a series of presentations to their congregation to raise awareness about adoption and the overwhelming needs of orphans worldwide. Because I have been learning so much lately about international adoption, my cousin asked me to present on that topic one Sunday.
Here’s a basic recap of what I’ve learned and what I shared about a month ago:
Over the past six months or so, my husband and I have begun discerning our calling in this area, and I’m thrilled to share with you some of what I’ve learned.
A Big Question
I figure I might as well jump in and address a very important and common consideration regarding international adoption:
Why pursue international adoption and/or orphan care when there are so many children in our own country needing forever homes?
If you have had this question, I ask that you genuinely seek God’s heart and His word for your answer. Perhaps, too, some of what I’ve learned can be of some help.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” Philippians 3:20
First, I believe that a believer’s primary citizenship is of Heaven and primary allegiance is to the things of God. To be a Christian is to care about what God cares about, which includes orphans in all countries. The Church – the collective body of believers – is to be about the care of orphans. Period. This certainly includes orphans in our nation and in others.
We have a dual calling as a body. As a body loving like Christ loves, there is enough love to multiply and go around. God calls each of us in different ways. I might discern my own calling by reflecting upon three things: the need, my skills and competencies, and my desire that God has given.
As believers, I feel that we are biblically mandated to orphan care, of all kinds. However, the way I respond to that mandate versus the way you do should stem from our own callings.
We should also remember that God is big enough to write each of our stories as He sees fit – we must not all walk the same path in order to function as a body.
Our World’s Orphan Crisis
The reality is that it’s practically impossible to number the children needing forever families in our world. However, we know that the number is devastatingly large. Each orphan has his or her own story, and regardless of the immensity and gravity of our worldwide orphan crisis, God knows each child by name.
When we speak of orphans, we nearly always mean both true and social orphans. A true orphan is a child with neither parent living. A social orphan denotes a child living without care due to a variety of causes, regardless of one or both parents still being alive:
- Alcoholism/Drug addictions
- Rejection by parents due to disabilities
- and more
International adoption can be quite complicated and overwhelming. There are many steps involved, and countries can open and close periodically. Laws change. Truck loads of paperwork must be submitted. The financial demands can be huge mountains that God alone moves. It’s a big deal; but it’s worth it.
When a family decides to adopt internationally, they may choose to put preferences forth to a country and wait for the referral of a child. A family may have lengthy waits for referrals but can possible be matched with some of the youngest and healthiest children available.
Alternately, a family may choose to pursue a specific waiting child. My understanding is that at least the majority of countries and agencies have waiting children lists. Often, you can view a picture and profile of these children before you commit to pursue them.
Waiting children have been difficult to place into adoptive homes due to their age, health needs, or if they are a part of a sibling group. Some countries or some regions within countries may make allowances to expedite the adoption of a waiting child; there may also be reduced fees.
Much like that statistics concerning American children needing homes, international orphans are fighting a losing battle. Of adoptions completed in 2010, the most adoptees originated from the following three countries:
China (3,401 adoptions in 2010) –
Ethiopia (2,513 adoptions in 2010) –
Estimated 5 million orphans – 2 million due to HIV/AIDS crisis
Among those surviving childbirth, 1 in 6 will not live to see their 5th birthday
Russia (1,082 adoptions in 2010) –
700,000+ orphans being cared for in government institutions
Conditions of orphanages range wildly – the worst are considered places of torture and even the best cannot replicate the love and sense of belonging that a family provides
Orphans “age out” with dire prospects of a safe future
In Russia, for example, “graduation day” is to be dreaded. If an orphan is relatively healthy, they are sent away from their orphanage or institution, left to make it on their own. The sad truth is that almost none actually do “make it.” Suicide claims many lives, as does poverty, prostitution, and a life of crime. Their future without a family is not promising, to say the least.
Alert: As of this writing, Russia is in the process of voting on a ban on adoptions to the US. Please pray for the orphans in Russia and for the families who are already in the process of an adoption.
Update 12/28/12: Russia’s President Putin has signed into law a ban on adoptions by American citizens. Please pray for pipeline families, for the waiting children in Russia, and that the United States and Russia could come to some agreement, if only to keep adoption possible for Russia’s children with special needs.
The Difference of Family
So what difference does a family make? Uncountable differences, for sure. Aside from the love of a family and hope for a better future, these children get their physical needs cared for in a way that is difficult to achieve in an orphanage.
Orphans, especially those with special needs, are often very literally “set free” and given the chance to eat and grow and learn as normally as possible, catching up for months or years spent simply trying to survive.
This blog, The Blessing of Verity, has a “before and after” post showing the tangible difference a family makes in the life of their new child. I implore you to visit this post.
These pictures both break my heart and give me such a sense of redeeming love. I’m sure you agree.
What Can I Do?
One ministry I follow closely is Reece’s Rainbow, an advocacy ministry serving children with Down syndrome and other special needs. (See my inaugural post about RR here). Children are listed on their site from many countries around the world with the hope of finding these children forever homes and raising what is often referred to as the “ransom” needed for these children. Please consider visiting this site and praying for God’s leading about how you can help.
Another ministry is Project Hopeful – a ministry very similar to RR but with a much greater emphasis on finding homes for children with HIV/AIDS and other special needs. The HIV/AIDS crisis has been so utterly destructive leaving, as we saw on a previous slide, an estimated 2 million orphans in Ethiopia alone.
Pray for orphans
Pray for adoptive families: arduous process, large financial commitment, 6-18+ months of waiting
Support political and social changes and initiatives that impact orphans worldwide
Advocate and raise awareness
Give financially to both organizations caring for orphans and to build specific waiting children’s grants
Support adopting families
I pray that our eyes have been opened a bit wider to the plight of orphans worldwide, the Church’s calling in orphan care, and ways you and your family may be able to show love to those our world sees as “the least of these.”