April’s edition of Christian Today contains an important editorial on international adoption and the biblical call to care for the fatherless. Significantly, the editorial holds together two elements that are sometimes falsely presented as being at odds with each other: support of in-country orphan care efforts, alongside strong affirmation of inter-country adoption for children that otherwise would grow up on the streets or in institutions.
The article pulls no punches in condemning unnecessary barriers to adoption:
The political and cultural barriers [erected by governments to make adoptions very difficult] stem from warped ideas about what is in a poor child’s best interest. It isn’t in the best interest of abandoned children to grow up destitute and barely literate, regardless of the imagined cultural benefit of remaining in their home country. Haiti itself is a vivid example of injustice. The government tolerates a modern form of child slavery by allowing 225,000 children ages 6-14 to work as restavecs (unpaid, indentured domestics). Adoption, domestic or inter-country, should not be looked down upon as inferior at best or as a last resort.
If the article were to be extended, two small additions would be helpful. First, given the natural inclination many people have towards seeing orphanages as the solution for kids that can’t be adopted, it’d be helpful to make clear that orphanages should be viewed most of the time as temporary, last-resort solutions. Children need consistent, personal love and nurture that rarely can be provided in an institutions. Solutions that are as close to a home environment as possible, ideally via adoption, are most often far preferable to an orphanage.
Second, given the confusion over orphan statistics, it’d be helpful to clarify that current estimates of the number of orphans in the world (whether the numbers the U.N. provides or the 210 million referenced by the article) include children that have lost only one parent. Thus, the vast majority of these orphans—while often facing great difficulties and in need of help—are not in need of adoption. Adoption, both in-country and inter-country, is vitally important in situations where children have no parent or relatives that can care for them. But that portion of the overall orphan statistics is relatively small. (For a fuller discussion of this topic, see here.)
Coming from a voice with the gravitas of Christianity Today, this article represents a very important affirmation of the Biblical call to “care for orphans in their distress”—via adoption as well as other means.