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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adoption and the Three F's

There are a few questions I get asked often. No matter how people phrase their inquiries, the essence of what they usually want to know about adoption, especially HIV+ adoption, are three basic things.

I'm about to uncover my answers to people's three biggest adoption questions, but first, did you know that?:

Statistics from 2005 state that over one-third of Americans had considered adoption but no more than 2 percent of Americans actually adopted.

With so many people considering adoptions in the US it's a wonder the numbers of adoptive families aren't higher. I mean, two percent? That's it?

I've looked high and low but it seems the 2005 figures are the most current ones available. Even if the number of families adopting in the US doubled things would still look pretty bleak compared to the 147 million orphans world-wide. The reality is that few people ever move from the 'thinking about it' stage to the blessing that is the reality of adoption.

Adoption isn't the answer to systemic change and the prevention of children being orphaned but it is a very real answer for children in need of parents NOW.

My friends and I wondered at the large numbers of people who had considered adoption and were curious what was happening to prevent them from actually adopting. We began listening closely to the questions and concerns about adoption expressed by people around us. In response, we have come up with a theory that there are three places people tend to stop and ask questions at. We call these points the Three F's. They are Faith, Fear, and Finances. It's our experience that if the Three F's can't be addressed with a satisfactory answer when they arise families tend not to pursue adoption further.

While the Three F's don't always come up in the order they are presented here, I believe all three come up for every Christian family who is considering adoption at some point or another along the journey.


God loves orphans AND He loves adoption.

You may be surprised to hear that. Maybe your eyes weren't looking for all the references to adoption in the Bible before. Now they might.

If the idea that God loves adoption is new to you the book of Ephesians is a good place to begin. For more study John Piper has some amazing online articles about the topic of adoption and God's design. (you can watch a quick video here)

Faith, for Christians, should play a huge role in orphan care and adoption. I'm not saying every Christian family has to adopt but I think the Bible makes VERY clear we have a responsibility to help orphans in need. To be blunt, I think the Church today needs to be challenged on a deep level about the nonchalant attitude it's taking in light of the orphan crisis around the world. Largely, Christians are ignoring the SERIOUS call to care for widows and orphans.

I love the challenge Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Church, issues in his message Who's the Cult (4/19/09). Francis talks about "one anothers" found in the Bible and whether or not our North American churches are behaving in a manner that is consistent with the Scriptures.

As a Christ follower it's clear from the Bible that the sufferings of others should not only constitute an emergency for the organized Church, they should constitute a personal emergency for me as well. I should be willing to ask hard questions of myself in order to ascertain whether or not I'm willing to give up even just a few earthly comforts to ease the sufferings of others.

We Christians love to cluck our tongues at atrocities like child prostitution or slavery, teen crime and drug use, but the truth is that if more of us would step up to care for those youths many of their lives would be redeemed from such horrors. Like I said, Christians should be willing, in light of all Jesus Christ has done for us, to sacrifice in order to ease the suffering of others.

Notice I said suffering. That's not even mentioning intense suffering. I call a child being without parents, without the covering of having their needs met with love and attention, INTENSE suffering.

If the plight of orphans doesn't constitute an emergency for those of us who call ourselves Christ followers what does!? If Christians believe that adoption is God's redemptive plan for children who have been abused, abandoned, neglected or orphaned then why aren't we acting like it? If we have a sense of gratitude for our own adoption into the family of God why isn't it showing in the DNA makeup of our families? Haven't we taken enough notes from the Master Gardener? Isn't it time to graft in some branches desperate for a family?

Sometimes I think the truth is we only kinda believe we can be God's answer to the orphan's prayers. It's almost as if we know it's a good thing but we're unsure if it would be a good thing for us. It's as if many of us are waiting for that lightning bolt to strike us just so we can be sure we've got what it takes.

The deal is: A thing like adoption requires a certain measure of leaping faith. The good news is the Lord is there to catch you! Always. And, when all else fails I like to borrow this prayer from a very wise man.

So here you are. You feel a spark of compassion rise up, maybe do an Internet search or attend an informational event because you care. You want to know more. At least a little. Whatever you do DON'T put this issue on the back burner. Unfortunately, embers often grow cold on the back burner.

I know this because I did the whole back burner thing. Thankfully the Lord got my attention loud and clear. If he hadn't I would still be missing TWO OF MY CHILDREN. What!? It's crazy to think about; life without two of MY KIDS? Oh, I shudder!.... So, let's not have you do that.

Fan those embers and let's see what happens next, because following right behind faith's knock on the door is our second "F".


Fear is to faith like kryptonite is to Super Man. Most Christians believe on a fundamental level that adoption is right. They just have a hard time coming to the conclusion that's it's right for them in light of a lot of their fears.

Education is key. Like, REALLY key. Because, everything is just that much scarier when combined with mystery (or ignorance).

My challenge to anyone out there who has really considered adoption before but stopped because they ran into a thick brick wall of fear is to charge straight ahead and see what answers you can get for those fearful "what ifs".

Fear of the unknowns surrounding adoption is common. The first and easiest fear to overcome is the weirdness people feel about not knowing anyone who has adopted or was adopted. People who haven't been exposed to adoption before tend to think of it as some really exotic way to live.

Given the chance most people would like to know more about adoptive families, but many don't have people they feel comfortable enough to take their adoption questions to. People just beginning to investigate adoption may be afraid to reach out to agencies for fear of being forced into a commitment they are not ready to make. This is where families in the adoptive community, especially those in churches, have an awesome opportunity to reach out. And, the deal is MOST adoptive families are only too happy to share their experiences.

I'll issue a warning here if you're one of those people who just wants to see what life is like for adoptive families but you're not what you'd call "that close" with an adoptive family: You've got to take the first step. Seriously, Just ask! Adoptive parents aren't mind readers, so you'll have to swallow that lump in your throat and go ahead, put it out there. You might need to say, "Hi, you barely know me, but I know you. Um... don't worry, I'm not a stalker or anything, but, like.... (giggle) funny, I said stalker. Again, I'm NOT. But I digress; listen, we're interested in adoption but we don't know any other adoptive families. Would it be okay if I called you sometime or maybe even met up with you to buy you some coffee and learn about your adoption experience?"

You might be surprised to learn how easy it is to make friends with adoptive families. Adoptive parents - or "APs" as I call them - know that folks just want to see and understand how things work. They know you need someone who you can ask questions of. APs understand people need to see real-life families doing their "thing" so they can get an idea of how family happens through adoption. APs "get it" when it comes to this stuff; mostly because they've been in your shoes.

A little known secret about APs is this: They're not faith giants. Nope, they're totally normal. They started out with fears all their own, but pressed past to take the plunge by God's grace.

Yes, every AP was once a PAP.

What's that? A PAP is Perspective Adoptive Parent.

I don't know of a single adoptive family who wasn't first inspired as perspective adopters by another adoptive family.

Or, haven't you noticed? Adoptions are contagious.

That's because when PAPs get around APs they realize adoption very much works. And, they get to meet the AMAZING blessings that are adopted children. So then, the PAPs want in on that action too. They see how much love happens in adoptive families and want to join in at every level.

I'm telling you; buddie yourself up to some APs and see if you don't catch the adoption bug. I dare you.

Talking with APs will also give perspective adopters a better understanding of the adoption process. Personally speaking, Dustin and I had such a distaste for what we thought would be a grueling home study process. We wondered if our previous parenting might be called into question. We feared that we could be judged harshly and that somehow we wouldn't make the grade. When we were able to speak with families who had completed the home study process we learned we had nothing to fear. Through online support groups our puffed up image of the dreadfully daunting task of completing our dossier was deflated. We drew from the experience of families who had gone before us and gained much confidence from their encouraging words.

If after digging you find that there simply are no adoptive families in your area never under-estimate the power of the good old world-wide web. That's how I met some of my closet friends; who happen to be adoptive families. There are countless blogs, websites, discussion boards, yahoo groups, etc., where you can link up with adoptive families and ask all the questions you can think of (and then some.) All this from the comfort of your home. You can totally find out about how awesome adoption is in your underwear, dude. I mean really!? What's better than that?

Lastly, but most importantly, people fear the biggies like attachment, special needs, and behavioural disorders. I haven't the time or the space to preach you the sermon I've prepared about how important it is for PAPs to realize that adoption is different and therefore prepare accordingly.

Okay, I said DIFFERENT, not bad. There are different challenges associated with adoption which yield different and wonderful rewards.

All adoptions come out of a MIND BLOWINGLY MASSIVE amount of loss and pain for a child (and their first family for that matter.) If you are seriously going to break through your fear related to topics like grief and loss you need to become educated about them. No wound can be healed without first being acknowledged. It is the duty of an adoptive parent to completely acknowledge the wounds their adopted child sustains. How can you know you're up to that task if you don't learn about the job at hand first? You might find you were made for this kind of parenting!

It's not just grief and loss you need to study. You'll need to understand attachment and bonding and how loving parent/child relationships are formed. You'll need to know how families work with therapists to help children who have been wounded deeply by a lack of proper attachment.

Perhaps the person you need to understand the most if yourself. Do you truly know what your fears are? Can you articulate them clearly to yourself? Have you searched the Scriptures and prayers to see what God would say to you about your fears? Are you willing to love unconditionally and with a motive that seeks the best intrest of your adopted child? Do you believe God can work in you to build the characteristics of a good adoptive parent? Have you given Him the space to do so?

If you would commit to invest just 10 hours reading, researching, and praying I'm willing to wager my first-born (NO not really!) that your fears will be lessened greatly. At that point, with fear no longer driving your decision, you'll be able to rationally and accurately assess whether or not you are a good fit for adoptive parenting.

If the answer is no, you'll no longer have to wonder. You'll never again have to say , "I've thought about adoption, but........ (and give a really lame excuse without ever really having put in the leg work to find out if it truly was right for you) You'll just know. And, knowledge is power.


Let's be honest. Money is a biggie. It's usually the first thing I hear out of people's mouths when they tell me why they haven't gotten serious about adoption. It isn't cheap but adoption is not impossible by any means.

Many people are surprised to learn there are a ton of organizations out there which provide grants and zero interest or low interest loans to adopting families. Some agencies have funds set up for family and friends of adopters to make tax deductible donations towards fees. Such a fund covered HALF of our adoption costs. America World Adoption Association (our agency) has a great list with links to some such organizations.

It is here that I really want to inject a personal story. Dustin and I felt the deep conviction that God was calling us to adopt the day after we wrote a check that could have paid for our adoption in full, twice. You read that right. And you might be asking a question similar to the one we asked ourselves at the time, "Why, Lord?"

You've heard it said that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills? But have you experienced God orchestrate the distribution of His wealth so that your family can include a child that would otherwise have no home, no parents, and no place to belong?

My family has. Twice.

God's answer to our financial concerns was made clear by His provision over the course of our adoptions. I can confidently tell you that God loves adoption and WILL move heaven and earth to bring His children home. Had I not experienced it myself I might never have believed it but - amazingly enough - ours is not a unique situation. Not by a long shot!

We have come to know so many families who have stepped out to adopt long before they knew the details of how the Lord would accomplish the work. Guess what? I don't know of a single family who sent in their application to an agency seriously intent upon adopting as a way to honor God that has ever failed to receive the provision necessary to bring their child/ren home.

God is not a liar when He says He desires that we care for orphans. He makes it possible for us to obey. Period.

The Three "F's" Challenge:

So here it is. The rubber shall be meeting up with the road, friend. I can't very well talk about the types of questions I get asked often without providing at least some of the answers.

As the saying goes, there's no such thing as a free lunch. I'll give you your answers but I want to challenge you in return. I'd really like you to commit the ten hours I talked about above. Just ten hours of your life for praying, reading, and educating yourself about adoption.

I'm going to make it SOOOO easy for you. Get out your library card because I've made a handy-dandy reading list for you.

Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds- by Tom Davis

Adopted For Life- by Russell D Moore

Twenty Things Adopted Children Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew- Sherrie Eldridge

The Adoption Resource Book- Lois Gilman

Attaching in Adoption- Deborah D Gray

The Connected Child- Karyn Purvis

I'm also volunteering myself and the other authors of this blog to answer any questions you want to ask about our families and our adoption experiences. I'm serious. Ask away.

That takes care of Fear and Finances. The Faith part is between you and Jesus. Here are a few conversations starters:

James 1:22-27

James 2:14-26

Romans 8:14-16 (Amplified)

Matthew 28:19-20

Psalm 50:10

Psalm 24:1

Ephesians 1:4-6 (Amplified)

Matthew 17:20

Zephaniah 3:17

And, if you're taking the challenge shoot me an email or leave a comment. Let me know how well the Three F's addressed your concerns. If you have any additional questions don't hesitate to ask me!

*Published 4/2009, Updated 4/2010


3 going on 4... said...

Oh Jen! That was so perfectly written. I am in tears because we fought through all 3 of the F's and it was such a battle of the wills for us! Looking back, I so wish I hadn't battled against God's plan or doubted it- not even for just one moment! Our Heavenly Father not only saw us through it all... he blessed us beyond our wildest dreams!
You are so right! The orphans of the world CANNOT be ignored. I most certainly feel a stirring in my heart to be a shining light to any family who even considers adoption. If they can see what God has done in our very ordinary lives, they too might be able to trust God and bring a child of God into a forever family.
Blessings in Christ,
Lyn Franks

Jennifer M said...

Hey Jen, I think you nailed it with the 3 F's. I actually just wrote something on my blog yesterday that you might find interesting. It's a little too "in your face" for my tastes, but the point was beautifully and poignantly made. It really touched me, and I couldn't not post. It touches on both the Faith and the Fear aspects.

Perhaps you've already seen these?

beBOLDjen said...

Lyn, I wrestled with all three of the F's too. It's easy to say in hindsight that we wish we hadn't but we didn't know then what we know now :-)

Jennifer- I'm heading over to read your post now.

Kim said...

so right Jen, you should publish this in a magazine, check around for some free lance work, this is good, of course save it for our material as well. :)( grafted tree I mean.

Brooke said...

As an adoptive mom, I couldn't agree more! We have all struggled with our excuses, but most of us, were we to see a child on the street with no mom and no home and no food, we wouldn't hesitate to bring the child home. I think so many don't realize that by stopping with teh three F's, the child on the street corner is REAL and in need and being left to die. WE need more people to step up and answer the call to adopt! It is such an amazing and fruitful calling and I pray more people will respond to the growing need of adoptive families.

Sean and Aubrey said...

Hey Jen I have been following your blog for awhile and read alot of blogs on adoption. My husband and I believe that God is calling us to adopt but are scared of the three f's, especially the finances. I was wondering if you think it would be wise before sending in paper work to at least save up half of the international adoption fee? We are already thinking of fund raisers.

beBOLDjen said...

Sean and Aubrey- Thanks for stopping by :-)

Finances can be daunting, I know. My first advice would be to pray pray pray for God's direction as to the timing He has planned for the expansion of your family. It may be that your child isn't born yet or isn't orphaned yet... so it wouldn't make much sense to go rushing to get your application in BUT it may also be the case, as it was with us that God would like you to move forward before all the details are completely known by you. The only way to know for sure is through prayer.

Have you looked into different options for grants, tax deductible funds and low intrest loans?

We had much success raising funds with a garage sale. We asked members of our church & community to donate items to the sale and had an overwhelming response. Three families partnered together and raised $7,000.00 to split between us. I know other families who have tee shirts made to sell, others do coffee fundraisers, raffles, and a million other creative things to raise funds.

The last thing I'd love to leave you with is the encouragement that I know of NO ONE who had a true desire to adopt in obdience to God's calling on their life who hasn't been provided with all that was necessary to bring their child/ren home.

beBOLDjen said...

PS- Sean and Aubrey Keep in mind that if you are doing an international adoption you have at least a year and a half to make payments, raise funds, and save like mad people :-)

Sean and Aubrey said...

Thank you soo much for all of your advice. We just attended an awaa seminar and are really praying about Gods timing in everything.I appreciate all of the ideas. We have thought about doing tshirts and think thats a great idea.