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My Take: On adoption, Christians should put up or shut up
June 16th, 2011
03:11 PM ET

My Take: On adoption, Christians should put up or shut up

Editor's Note: Jason Locy is co-author of Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society. He and his wife are adoptive parents and participants in Safe Families for Children, a voluntary alternative to foster care.

By Jason Locy, Special to CNN

When the Arkansas Supreme court struck down a voter-approved initiative that banned cohabitating straight and gay couples from adopting orphaned children, the Christian community predictably erupted.

Byron Babione of the Alliance Defense Fund, a coalition of Christian lawyers, attributed the April ruling to a “political movement afoot to undermine and destroy marriage.” Baptist Press, the publications arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, ran an article that quoted Babione as saying the ruling reflected “a campaign to place adult wants and desires over the best interests of children."

On one hand, these comments aren’t surprising. Conservative evangelicals have decried “the anti-family gay agenda” for decades. On the other, they underscore the way many Christians denounce a social problem that they have no plan for solving.

And the problem here is not ultimately gays adopting — the prevention of which, I believe, was the impetus behind the Arkansas initiative and behind adoption restrictions in various other states. The problem is a global orphan crisis involving tens of millions of children.

In the United States, there are approximately 116,000 foster children waiting to be adopted. That means a judge has either severed the rights of the original parents or the parents have voluntarily signed their children over to the government.

To put this into perspective, we might compare the number of American orphans to the purported 16 million Southern Baptists who attend more than 42,000 churches nationwide. Quick math reveals that there are roughly 138 Southern Baptists for every child in the American foster care system waiting to be adopted. To say it another way, this single denomination has an enormous opportunity to eradicate the orphan crisis in America.

If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve probably heard a sermon on Noah or Moses or David. But how many sermons have you heard on the biblical mandate to care for orphans?

When was the last time you heard your pastor declare, “if you choose to adopt a child we will stand with you. We will provide respite care, financial help and do everything possible to meet the needs of that child?”

Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics — the Christian Church — can provide safe, loving, permanent homes for these kids. Our faith dictates that we fight for a better way in both words and deeds.

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, and Peter responded yes, Jesus didn’t tell him to picket the wolves. He told Peter to feed and tend his sheep.

Some churches and Christian groups are stepping up. Focus on the Family launched a Wait No More initiative in Colorado in 2008, forming partnerships between local churches, adoption agencies and the government in order to encourage families to adopt through the foster care system. As a result, the number of Colorado orphans waiting for a family has been cut in half.

Christianity Today ran a 2010 report headlined “Adoption is Everywhere,” illustrating the trend among churches and Christians who are giving “attention to orphans, adoption, the fatherless, and so on.”

Despite such efforts, the American orphan crisis remains. Too many churches still find it easier to stand behind a megaphone decrying the morality of laws than to stand beside a child in need.

Thousands of orphaned children in America need grandmas and grandpas, embarrassing uncles and crazy aunts. They need someone to teach them to fly a kite and throw a ball and read a book and tie their shoes. They need someone to call mom and dad.

In fairness, adopting a child is not easy and many of these children face difficult adjustments once they’re adopted. They have experienced pain, loss, hurt, confusion and misplaced trust. They have endured physical, emotional and sexual abuse — things most of us don’t even want to imagine.

In 2008, when my wife and I adopted through Bethany Christian Services, the organization educated us on the possible challenges of adopting a child. They informed us that even though our daughter was a baby when we brought her home, she would eventually ask tough questions, as would our friends and family.

But my wife and I know our faith demands action and that sometimes action takes us out of our comfort zone.

As a father of three — two biological children and an adopted child — and a host to a number of children that have needed a temporary home I can tell you these kids need less arguing over who should and should not be allowed to adopt and more families stepping up and saying, “we will adopt.”

It is time Christians decide to either step up or shut up. If a Christian group wants to wade into the discussion over who should adopt, it needs to put its money and manpower where its mouth is.

That means not only challenging families and churches to adopt from foster care (which costs virtually nothing financially) but also to adopt children resulting from unplanned pregnancies, children with special needs and children of mixed race or minority ethnicity.

If Christians’ only desire is to fight the culture wars and score political points, then they should continue to lean on empty rhetoric. But if they truly care about the family and the Bible, they’ll begin caring for children who desperately need a home.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jason Locy.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Opinion • Politics

soundoff (708 Responses)
  1. Scott Price

    It's funny how many people "know" that Christians sit back and do nothing about issues like this. One of the key principles found through out the Bible is to serve others without having anyone reward you or notice you here. What you find then are people who travel to different parts of the world and adopt children at enormous expense and the only people that know about it are their closest family and friends. Or you find the family that has taken in 8 children via the foster care system and adopted them because the social workers know that the family can provide an excellent home.

    In the circles my wife and I travel in we know many, many families who have 2, 3,5, 8 or more children that are adopted. Many of those children have special needs in one form or another. Those families don't run out with the megaphone and say "HEY, I JUST ADOPTED ANOTHER KID." They humbly care for those children to fulfill the biblical mandate care for the orphans and fatherless.

    They soldier on and do as much as they can, and even sometimes more than they can. Their hearts are so broken by hearing about another child who needs a family that they can't bear to let that child suffer so they say "what's one more" and adopt again.

    So they are out there, but you often don't see them because they are so busy caring for the children. Sometimes you don't even see them in a church because the care is so demanding that it's physically not possible to get there.

    I do agree with the author that more needs to be done, but must point out that many more people are doing something about it than is realized. Like any difficult issue, awareness must be raised and then more people can get involved. Perhaps this piece will alert some to "step up" and adopt a child.

    Scott, father of 6 – adopted – with special needs.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  2. Sara

    We wanted to adopt three siblings through foster care only to be told they needed to go back to their 19 year old drug addicted mother. So everyone who believes people should just adopt need to educate themselves on how the foster care program works. The problem is not finding adoptive parents, it is the system failing these kids by "rehabilitating" the biological parents so they can be reunited. The courts need to think about the best interest of the child and not the so called rights of the parents.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • 2manyhorses

      Sadly, you are completely on target. It is a sick game of CYA and the often worthless parents seemingly have more rights than the innocent kids. Must say, however, the religious zealots who muddy the waters re: who should and should not adopt are only hurting the very children they are supposed to care about.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Sara

      2manyhorses – I do agree with that. I am Christian and I think the article has over over exaggerated the amount of Christians that feel that way. I also feel the people that are writing such hateful comments about Christians in this post are worse then the people they are criticizing. I don't think the amount of kids in foster care has to do with who should and who should not adopt, but the failed system itself. All Christians I know would love these kids to just go to a loving home, but able to go into these homes earlier in their lives. I think the emphasis of Christians that are debating who should and should not adopt as well as the people ridiculing Christians for not adopting should be focusing on fixing the system so these kids are taken away from their biological parents. It is wasted energy on both sides that could be energy put to fixing the actual problem.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  3. Logan5

    @just me
    I agree that there are Christians in this world who don't preach intolerance and hate and surrender themselves to archaic and absurd ideologies, but the problem is there just aren't enough of them. That said, I have to agree with Kati. The thought of Christians adopting and indoctrinating innocent kids into their belief system that otherwise would have been spared this inujustice is frightening!

    June 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  4. ray

    I am Christian, a woman, single and African american. I want to adopt an infant but on a teacher's salary I cant afford to. Hopefully I will soon. I have looked for churches to offer support or any type of programs that offer assistance and found NONE... I also observed that African American children are cheaper and often labeled "special needs" because of age... anyway I couldnt find any churches willing to embrace adoption....

    June 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • LinCA

      @ray.
      Have you tried: http://www.adoptuskids.org
      Adopting from foster care is often free

      June 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  5. PoqVaUSA

    The Christians that I know DO adopt. Christians stand up for standards and critics immediately jump on name calling without discussing content. When children's future (and present) is at stake, standards are important. Having a father and a mother (not two fathers or two mothers) and having the commitment of husband and wife that is demonstrated by marriage vows is important for the stability of the family and for the wellbeing of the children. Noone is saying that the adoptive parents need to be Christian, but Christians DO rise to the need and adopt.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • wildbynature

      Gay parents are just as capable as straight parents. Google the statistics on it before you slam people that are giving these kids loving homes.

      July 11, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  6. Jeff

    Amen

    June 16, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
  7. Jon

    More child molestation cases. Just what we need.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  8. lynn

    We did foster care for several years and have 2 biological kids and one adopted child(legally adopted) who we had as a foster since 3 days old. He didnt come up for adoption until he was almost 3 years old.We picked him up from the hospital and the children service worker had to name him because the mother would not and did not. She left him in the hospital and the whole time we were fostering no one mom or dad or families asked for visits or anything but they had to go the two years to let the parents have their rights to conform to what they were suppose to do to get the child back which after the first contact they could not locate the parents anymore. We also have a son (foster) that earned a football scholarship to the University of Cincinnati and is a starter for the team.He is in contact with hnis mom but he is our child also and comes home all the time . He is a great example of what can happen with a little love and support. Even several of my other kids went further than expected .I had one that missed the entire 9th grade year and they basically told me they did not expect him to graduate high schooll.Well he did and went to a community school to get a degree?? or certificate (not sure what you call it) for welding and has a skill. Another that was in a behavior school his entire life . He came into our home at age 13 and got to transition to a regular school after being with us for a year. It goes to show that a little love and support can go a long way .

    June 16, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  9. bookbud

    We are Christians and have three bio children – we adopted our fourth child. Jesus says to take care of the poor, widowed and orphaned. We would have adopted more but we are getting too old to apply. We look forward to maybe being foster parents in the near future when our older children move out! We need the bed space! I totally agree with this article. Too many stand and judge but do nothing to help.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • heliocracy

      I commend you, but I also have to wonder if your vote follows this same line of reasoning.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  10. tallulah13

    The problem here is that adoptable children have already been born. The religious right only care about fetuses, so hey! Who cares if living children never get a real home?

    June 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Uncommon Sense

      That's the way! Zing 'em some more!

      June 16, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Chad

      Good one: I do believe that following Christ means that we are obedient to God, not just aware that he is there. Adoption is awesome: I have three wonderful daughters who I adopted, and I cannot imagine life without them. I hope your comment encourages more Christians to step up their obedience to God. This isn't just about zingers, after all, but actually taking care of real children. In this context, I think your comment could help!

      June 17, 2011 at 4:19 am |
  11. SCDC

    All in all, I'd prefer to tolerate the religious right's hypocrisy on this issue and have fewer brainwashed children out there.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • Kathleen

      Agreed. The last thing we need is more people indoctrinated in Bible-based bigotry. Leave the kids alone; if your religion is worth embracing, let them do it as a fully-functioning adult, not as a brain-washed kid.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • mmb

      HOLY F!!! you people are clueless! F-ing clueless! you would rather children never feel loved, never feel provided for, never feel wanted, be tossed about between places (not even homes in the relational sense of the word), face probable continued abuse- i could go on and on- than be reared with a belief system that you have decided is the bane of man's existence?! love is love. you are as F-ed up as the people believing gay adoption is wrong. i wish i could slap some F-ing sense into your privileged, opinionated minds. it's EASY for you who were never in foster care or faced being orphaned to spout your self-righteous ignorance. shut up blasting christians and put YOUR money where your mouth is. atheists can and SHOULD be just as responsible for adopting orphans as christians are.

      July 1, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
  12. mike c

    Well written article. Credit is given where credit is due and a mirror is held up to those who refuse to see clearly.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  13. Jon

    Pro-life can also mean Pro-Adoption. If you are against abortion then make adoption much more easier and safer for both parties.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  14. Scott

    "Christians should put up or shut up" TBH That statement is profound on so many levels, and one of the smarter things I have read in quite a while.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • equalOpportunityOffender

      I am father of four (one or more adopted - exactly what the divide is none of your business). I am strongly pro-choice and anti-abortion; a woman should have access to safe abortion procedures rather than back alley hack-jobs AND she should have ready access to families who are looking to adopt as well as support to get through the pregnancy. I have a tendency to get in the face of other Christians who don't walk the walk. When someone cries out "But what about the babies!" I have no problem getting verbally smacking them around with the question: "Have you adopted a child or supported the adoption of a child?" followed by an ardent "Until you step up you may shut up!"

      June 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Waytkd

      Ironically, Liberals should as well, nothing says that all of the libs can pay everything over the median salary in taxes, you are allowed to pay as much ad you want, so until all dems donate everything they earn over median to the federal government, stop trying to redistribute everyone's wealth. Fair is fair, put up or shut up. And I am all for Christians having to put up or shut up on the adoption issue, unfortunately, the dems aren't serious about fair is fair.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  15. kati

    i think this is spot on. i wholeheartedly agree... except do we really want the kind of people that spew such hatred and intolerance in the name of "god" and "family values" to be the ones adopting and teaching these children? shudder...

    June 16, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • just me

      Kati, do you stereotype all Muslims as terrorists? If not, then why would you stereotype all Christians as filled with hatred. In Christianity, just like in the secular world and any other religion, there are unsavory people, but there are also Christians who are good and decent people who do not spew hatred and evil.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  16. Chris

    Adopt or shut up. Sick of hearing Christians denouncing everyone else and doing nothing. They leave problems like homelessness, child abuse, orphans, and also animal abuse (remember Jesus saved a lamb from slaughter) to simply praying it away. Adopt or shut up. Stop infringing on the rights of other citizens.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Chad

      An interesting thing to ask for those making broad generalizations about Christians: how often as an adult have you sat down with Christians to listen to their beliefs and actually understand them? I know there are certain groups and individuals within the faith who are certainly judgmental and appear hateful, yet in my experience, once I actually spent some time with Christians and listened to them firsthand, I was pleasantly surprised to find such behaviors greatly exaggerated in Hollywood films and in the more lurid, attention getting headlines. Instead, I found imperfect people who were doing their best to follow the loving example set by their savior, Jesus Christ. How many base their generalizations of Christians on fabricated portraits made large in the media? Quite a few, I would imagine.

      June 17, 2011 at 4:26 am |
  17. joecool16280

    I would gladly adopt a BABY that is to be aborted.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  18. Troy

    Well, duh, they're Christians. All talk and nothing to back it up.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • just me

      seriously, Troy? my church is filled with people who have adopted from foster care, private agencies, etc. please stop being so narrow-minded. I find it interesting that the very people who scream that Christians are full of hate are the very people that hate Christians. Hate is hate, even from a secular viewpoint.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Bebob Doowhop

      -Just me-
      Are you trying to say that no one should be allowed to protest against the harm done by Christians in the name of their religious beliefs just because there are some who are nice people? Maybe some of those "nice people" are just individuals who would be nice even without a religion. The religion doesn't make the nice, as anyone can see. History is filled with religious hate and violence and oppression.
      If you can't understand that niceness is not a function of your religion but only of the individuals and their actions, then maybe you should think about it some more. Your religion has no place in the way we govern this country. Religion is for your spiritual life and personal lifestyle. It is not a blank check to go around forcing people to your way of life through religious bigotry and bias. You might be nice to your friends and family, but still act like a religious bigot when faced with things that do not match up with your unrealistic expectations of other people. And yet everyone will say you're a real nice person because they are just doing the same things as you.
      Religions have no standards, no clearness, and give little moral guidance that isn't based on negative emotional feedback.
      Many religious people act without consideration for the personal rights and freedoms of those they seek to control.
      You want everyone to see the world through your personal God-colored sunglasses, so you think you have to shove your unrealistic values upon everyone around you without any real cause or justification based on facts, for your religion is not based on facts and should therefore be kept out of the decision-making process and governing of this secular world we happen to live in. Remember reality? This is not a religious wonderland. Niceness can be a facade, too. It is not set in stone..

      June 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  19. Joe from Ohio

    teaching hatred and intolerance. something both christians and the GOP have in common.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Bannister

      It's the Left that teaches hate and intolerance. Nazism, Communism were both LEFTIST systems and murdered hundreds of millions of people.

      June 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      @Bannister: Nazism is a far RIGHT ideology. Educate yourself before you embarrass yourself further.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • mike c

      To Bannister: Those were totalitarian dictatorships, not "liberal" or "leftist" anythings. Hatred and prejudice towards other opinions is what creates the environment in which that evil thrives. I have seen far more name-calling and hatred from people like you than from any so-called leftists. Your blanket labeling of those with whom you disagree with a term meant to put the entire group down, is the definition of prejudice.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • jessie

      Please dont lump all Christian people together. Some of us show our faith by trying to make this world a better place.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
    • heliocracy

      Funny how conservatives automatically equate liberalism with evil. Trueblue is correct, Nazism is an ultra-conservative philosophy.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Greg

      Nice Joe. Not like the GOP has a monopoly on ignorance, prejudice, hatred or intolerance. If you'd like to make it political, you'd have to call out both parties don't 'cha think? Maybe queen Pelosi, king Reid, and the joken on the hill (and for that matter their counterparts on the other side of the isle as well) can help you understand pandering? Personally, I took a good hard look at 'em both quite awhile ago, and decided that while a third option for independant candidates on the ballot box would be welcome (but somehow the media will not allow that one to happen) I'd like to go further and be able to choose option d) none of the above. boy, wouldn't that send a message? imagine not having to vote for the lessor of the evils?, and they'd have to keep trying until WE decided who we really wanted in office to represent US.. just a thought... peace.
      Now, back to the subject of adoption amongst Christians, and basic math.. I agree with the article. If we could only get 2.7 children adopted by every church (it takes a village right?) we could close the book on the issue. I mean, the donations to the churches are tax free, so what better opportunity to donate and enrich the lives of these kids? So, if each congregation has 150 members, and it takes 8,000 dollars a year to provide for a child (probably well above the median level) omg, that's 53 dollars per person per year. ((sorry, I've got an i-phone payment to make, I can't be bothered) would most likely be the typical response...))

      June 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  20. Tricia

    Sometimes, foster care is the scary situation. Sometimes, states will take your children and give them to other people without cause. It happens much more than it should. Instead of encouraging adopting kids from Foster care, I encourage you to rehabilitate those biological parents who need it. And rehabilitate the system when it removes kids from homes that aren't messed up.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • CJ

      In response to Tricia: You cannot adopt a child from Foster Care until the birth parents' rights have been removed. If the rights are not willingly given up by the parents, the Social Services department has the legal obligation to provide rehabilitation to the parents, through other organizations. A rehabilitation plan is set up for the parents and the parents are required to attend classes, etc. If the parents fail to meet their planned goals, then they are basically allowing the Dept of Social Services to take their parental rights away. I have been a foster mother and I have adopted three foster children. In addition, I have been in the family courtroom countless times and have seen first-hand the "parents" of some of these kids. It is unbelievable some of the things that take place in homes across America. I encourage everyone reading this comment to take a few days and spend them in the family courtroom. You will leave with a different perspective.

      June 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • Adam

      I agree 100% with CJ. We adopted 2 children out of the juvenile court system, and trust me, the court gives the bio parents every conceivable means to rehab and get their children back. More opportunities than I think the court should. Many times the bio parents do not truly want to be reunified with their children; they're just going through the motions, obtaining what they can for free, but they're not truly committed to their children. And the lack of commitment eventually comes through since they typically return to their old ways, the ways that resulted in the removal of their children in the first place. I have never seen a child removed from a home without cause and have never seen or heard of a child being removed from a home that isn't "messed up." I suspect, Tricia, you and I are on opposite sides of this fence.

      June 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • sonas76@ptd.net

      To those who say that children are never removed for a reason, I also believed this. That is until I had a situation with CPS a few years back. My husband and I both have good jobs, nice home, never had any trouble with the law, etc. My oldest child developed a very rare type of eye infection and had to miss two weeks of school because he needed around the clock medical care and special medications applied every 1-2 hours. His school WANTED him to stay home and he had written permission from his specialist to do so. I am a nurse and was able to provide the care he needed. My child got bored being at home all day and I would let him play on our porch. This upset my elderly, busy-body neighbor who called in a report about my child being out of school so much (and I was able to prove it was him). The next thing I knew, CPS was at my door, inspecting my house, demanding medical records, physically checking my two children, and bullying me. They threatened to take my children until my husband and I got the specialist to call them and tell them to back off, or she would gladly go to court on our behalf and rip them apart for interfering with her patients care. CPS never came back. It has taught me that ANYONE can fall victim to a phone call from an idiot that doesn't know you and your family situation.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Ward

      Tricia, it's so true what you say, and our nonprofit works with families every day to try to help when the system which is funded for removal and adoptions is all against them. It's badly broken. And you wisely said "sometimes" so the people who disagree have no argument. You are right. And what's worse, it's funded from Social Security funds to the detriment of the seniors and disabled. WA State Representative Ruth Kagi (D) spelled it out in July 2010 when testifying before the U.S. House on child welfare waivers. Now the waivers are being expanded so that the funds might be used by more pre-approved states to keep families together (which *is* the law!) In this economy I am not sure how many states can keep their funding at previous levels, though, to qualify. Many, many children have died in foster care even though there are excellent and caring parents out there too! I appreciate this article (I am a Christian who agrees) and Tricia, I appreciated you speaking boldly as well. The world needs to know.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Adam

      @Ward – I don't mean to offend, but frankly your statement and apparently your organization's mission perpetuate the problem. You are an apologist for the bio parent, you make excuses for them, allowing them to see themselves as victims and as such be treated like victims. They will perpetually remain in this cycle because they have people like you to coddle them, make excuses for them, so they will never have to take responsibility for themselves. They will always be able to rely upon people like you who blame the system, instead of blaming themselves. Only when they develop introspection and stop trying to blame others for the mess they created will they truly rehab. And unfortunately, the truly rehabbed are few and far between.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Adam

      sonas76@ptd.net – I agree that sometimes CPS can be overzealous in their investigations, but you have to remember what they're up against in a typical case, the type of person they normally have to deal with. Also, the fact it went no further than one visit should prove that, despite the approach they took with you, the system worked, i.e., they quickly ruled out that any actual abuse was taking place. Indeed, even if CPS investigation is taken to the next level, the next layer of protection for the parents is the judge, who can put an end to the case in short order if it is not merited.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.