Changes in international adoption

Do you feel the tide turning?

When I began to speak boldly about corruption in international adoption a year ago, I faced a lot of opposition. The adoption and orphan care movement was growing quickly within the Christian community, as thousands of families and churches where embracing God’s heart for orphans. At the same time, there was a lot of fear that talking about corruption in countries like Uganda or Ethiopia would lead to these countries closing to international adoption.

But I believe something is changing.

More families are telling the truth about their adoption experiences. Leaders in the Christian adoption and orphan care movement are calling us to question what we’re doing and to consider what will make a lasting difference. While I still see the adoption movement as a bit of a flood that has the potential to devastate vulnerable communities in the developing world, I think the tide is changing. I think a growing number of us who take seriously what the Bible has to say about orphans and widows are questioning whether what we are doing is helping without hurting.

I believe we still have a long way to go.

Every time I see a 147 million shirt or read an adoption agency website about 163 million orphans or listen to a sermon about the orphan crisis, I want to scream wait! There are millions of orphans in the world today – but roughly 9 out of 10 of them are living with their families. These families are often at risk of poverty and injustice. As Christians, we’re called to orphans and widows – to vulnerable families. When Christians think “orphan crisis” their first response should be supporting kids with their mothers and fathers. Empowering these families to have a path out of poverty. Fighting for justice and against corruption. Protecting and providing for the least of these in response to the grace and mercy we have received from our adopted Father.

So until every Christian grasps that living out James 1:27 means supporting families first, I will keep speaking the truth.

I am thankful that I am not alone on this journey. So for the rest of  this post, I wanted to share with you a few things I have read and watched. I hope you will find these as helpful, thought-provoking and heart-breaking as I have.

  • Mercy, Mercy. A heartbreaking story of an Ethiopian family and a Danish family connected by adoption. Please, please, please if you are considering international adoption, watch this documentary. Nearly every family that has adopted from Africa can see something of their own story in this film. It is raw and transparent and hard. It should lead us all to question deeply when adoption is truly the best choice for a child.
  • Red flags wave over Uganda’s adoption boom. Article and news report about international adoption in Uganda from CNN
  • Lots of helpful posts from The Rileys. This week alone, Mark and Keren have shared a thoughtful story from an adult adoptee, a painful story from an adoption that failed as a result of corruption, and their reflections on the Pepperdine Conference about Intercountry Adoption: Orphan Rescue or Child Trafficking?
  • A Place of Mercy: The OTHER side of orphan care. I met blogger Erika while we were both “stuck” in Uganda in 2011. We both spent months in Uganda living in orphanages with the children we were hoping to adopt. For both of us, this meant seeing a side of adoption and orphan care that is invisible when you go on a short-term mission trip or a quick adoption trip. Erika’s experience has compelled her to ask some terrific questions:

What if poverty did not decide whether or not a child became an orphan?

What if parents who love their children are able to raise them and watch them grow into adult hood?

What if parents were able to feed and clothe their kids and able to send them to school?

What if we could keep kids from becoming orphans!

Wherever you are at in your journey, I hope these resources will be helpful. For those of you who share my passion for reforming international adoption, keep up the good fight. For others who are consider adoption for the first time, I hope you will not be overwhelmed. I am not against international adoption. I love adoption and I feel incredibly blessed to be an adoptive mother. My hope is that all this spilled ink will empower you with information to make the best decision for your family – and to do what is just and good.

This blog was originally published on Family Hope Love in March 2013.

Sara Brinton

SARA BRINTON is a writer and entrepreneur with a passion for reforming international adoption and orphan care. She leads marketing for Noonday Collection, a business that uses fashion to create opportunity in developing countries. Sara and her husband, Mark, live in Austin, Texas with their four children, including daughter Gabrielle who was adopted from Uganda.

  • Janette Pepall

    March 5, 2013 at 10:39 am Reply

    Thank you for sharing your perspective! In 2011-12, there were only 333 adoptions in the whole of Australia, the lowest figure on record.And for the first time in over 10 years, local adoptions exceeded international. In 1971, 10,000 children were adopted in Aust. so the change is staggering. As a birth, foster and adoptive mother and professional in the field, I agree with you that the vast majority of ‘orphans’ live with family etc, so the 147 million often quoted do not all require permanent homes. It is important to correctly define orphan, as the statistics change depending on your definition. I use maternal, paternal, double and social orphan. And do not label a child an orphan unless it can be proven. I am certainly pro-adoption, but children must remain within their families, communities and societies if at all possible.

  • Sarah Brill

    March 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve learned so much from your blog and those you link to. I love reading about adoption and orphan care and seeing Christians step up in this way but yes, it’s “widows and orphans” meaning our heart for a vulnerable child should also lead us to having a passion to love on vulnerable families. Children don’t just appear out of no where ready to be adopted, some sort of lack has happened to cause children to be in such a situation. It’s encouraging to see people step further into the orphan crisis and give a voice to what is happening at the beginning…in the hope that first families can continue on to remain forever families whenever possible.

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