November is National Adoption Month. Over the past couple of decades, the Church has experienced a stirring of responsiveness about all types of care for orphaned and vulnerable children, and an increase in awareness of adoption has been part of this movement. In fact, according to the Barna Research Group, almost 40% of practicing Christians in America have considered adoption.
Quite possibly you or someone close to you have considered or are considering adoption. If you are one of the millions of Christ-followers in America who are considering adoption, the questions can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? Here are several steps to consider if you are considering adoption:
1. Realize that not everyone should adopt.
This may seem like an odd thing to say in an article about first steps in adoption, but I think at times we have a bit of a difficult time separating the biblical call to care for orphans from adopting. The call to care for orphans is universal to every Christ-follower, but not everyone is called to adopt, and quite frankly, not every family should adopt. There are a variety of ways that you can be involved in orphan care (and even adoption) without adopting.
Pursuing adoption is a major, life-altering undertaking that can involve a great deal of difficulty and waiting in the process to bring a child home, and adoption will introduce complexity and challenges to your family. Prayer is essential before, during, and after an adoption. Invite friends and family to pray with you and for you as you discern God’s will regarding adoption.
3. Count the cost.
In any case, adoption is costly, and the cost goes far beyond the obvious financial considerations. To adopt is to enter into some level of brokenness and disappointment with children, and this is true of every adoption. We do not come to an adoption without there having been loss. That may be the loss of a relationship with a birth parent, the loss of a child’s personal story, or even the loss of safety and security through abuse and neglect.
As an adoptive parent, you will experience the effects of these losses for yourself and with your child, and you must be ready to accept the weight of this loss personally and for your family. Adoption may even require changing strongly-held thoughts and practices. This decision may involve factoring in your family’s ability to afford doctors and therapists in addition to the cost of an adoption itself. You must be willing to adapt your family’s rhythm of life to accommodate the needs of a child coming from a hard place. Adoption may also involve changing your parenting style (in seemingly unconventional ways) in order to meet the unique needs of an adopted child.
4. Find a support system.
Given the unique challenges and complexities that adoptive families often face, building relationships with other adoptive families––especially those who are farther along in the journey––is an invaluable resource. Seek out these friends. Ask them questions. Spend time with them and observe their families. Seek their prayers. Be bold enough to ask a godly adoptive couple to mentor you. The right couple will be a rich source of information and wisdom as you consider adoption.
5. Do your homework.
Adoption is a complex endeavor. Take the time to learn about the different types of adoption: private infant adoption, adoption from foster care, special needs adoption, intercountry adoption, transracial adoption, etc. Each type of adoption has unique requirements, costs, processes, and impacts on the family. Understanding as much as possible about the variables that are common to each type of adoption will help you make a well-informed, prayerful, and wise decision. Church adoption ministries, adoptive parent support groups, and adoption providers can be great sources of information.
6. Prepare yourself.
In adoption, it can be easy to focus on the child (or the idea of a child) that we are bringing into our homes while forgetting about ourselves. Just like we would never think of running a marathon without training first, we should never think of pursuing an adoption without first preparing ourselves. We must prepare physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the journey.
All too often, prospective adoptive parents come to adoption with unresolved issues in marriage (or even with infertility), and they think adopting will solve their issues. In reality, the process of adoption can stress a marriage greatly, especially in areas that are already weak. Take time to actively seek the Lord to strengthen you and your marriage as you consider adoption and throughout the process. Also, be prepared to use the time of waiting to grow in Christ as a disciple and to grow together in marriage by intentionally investing in your spouse.
7. Partner with a reputable, Christ-centered agency.
An adoption agency can be an invaluable resource as you consider the possibility of adoption as well as the type of adoption that would be healthy for your family. The number one reason that couples give for not pursuing adoption is unresolved questions and fear of the unknown. A healthy adoption agency will be willing to help you by taking the time to answer your questions and address your fears.
Look for an agency with a long track record of ethical behavior that will come alongside your family to support you before, during, and after your adoption. Ask how the agency will prepare you for the adoption and how it cares for both birth families and adoptive families. Most importantly, seek out an agency that is committed to Christ and will share your family’s worldview and offer spiritual support.
The need is great. Far too many children stand in need of the love, safety, and permanence of adoption. Adoption is a tangible way for Christians to put the heart of God on display: “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home…” (Ps 68:5-6a).
I pray these thoughts will help you consider whether God is leading you to adopt and how best to begin this journey.
To learn more about caring for orphans and adoption, visit Lifeline Children’s Services.