There are many decisions that a family must make when pursuing the path of caring for the fatherless through adoption. The choice between international or domestic is among the most basic. For my wife and I, this decision led us to an international adoption from Hungary. On the back end of (what I hope to be just) our first adoption, I have a little different perspective than I did on the front end. So, here are some things to consider as you wrestle with this question.
First, International adoption is in vogue – domestic isn’t. And there are good reasons for that, but also a lot of bad reasons.
Good reason #1 to choose international over domestic adoption: “America’s foster care system is a lot better than many parts of the world.” I call this the compassion quotient. A child in Congo may have lost both parents to civil war and may be struggling to obtain basic nutritional and medical needs, while a child in the American foster care system will probably never suffer on this level. It is also true that many children available for adoption in other countries will actually die of very preventable causes without adoptive parents stepping in. Thus, for the mercy-driven among us, there appears to be an overall greater net-gain for the compassion quotient to adopt a child from a place like The People’s Republic of Congo, as opposed to Jefferson County, Alabama.
Good reason #2 to choose international over domestic adoption: “A child is much more likely to be exposed to the saving news of Jesus Christ in America than many other parts of the world.” This is absolutely a valid reason. America, at least the South, is blessed with an above average saturation of believers. Thus, if you have space for one adopted child in your home, it makes sense to adopt a child from somewhere that they would otherwise not have (much) of a chance (humanly speaking) to hear the gospel.
Or framed differently, the question is this: In which part of the world will the child that I am not adopting have a better chance of hearing the Gospel? Venezuela or Alabama? To be honest with you, from my personal study of the historical expansion of God’s Kingdom, I don’t know if the answer is always going to be that the unadopted orphan is more likely to hear the Gospel here rather than “there.” But, that’s another discussion, and there are some parts of the world where this is definitely true.
Good reason #3 to choose international over domestic adoption: “Preference and calling.” Honestly, many adoption decisions come down to preference. This is true in almost all areas of stewardship, such as what to do with excess finances that God entrusts to us. We have freedom in how to whom we give our money away. So, if a couple finds themselves particularly drawn to a certain country, or to a particular child in another country, that is wonderful.
Now for the bad reasons to choose international over domestic adoption.
Bad reason #1 to choose international over domestic adoption: “We don’t want the birth-mother to come back years later and take our child away.” First of all, this is mostly an urban legend: there are stringent laws in place to prevent this very thing. For a more detailed discussion, see my blog post: How Long Does Alabama Adoption Law Give a Birth Mother to Change Her Mind?
To compensate for this danger, many agencies will provide extensive birth mother counseling, ensuring that this is really what the birth mother wants to do. Also, these agencies have a network of foster parents who care for the child during the brief window of time (5 days in Alabama) a birth mother has to change her mind for any reason. This helps to protect the adoptive family from the emotional trauma that can result if the birth mother changes her mind.
In addition, when adopting out of the foster care system, none of the birth-mother-reclaiming-the-child risks are present. All children eligible for adoption within the Alabama foster care system have had their parental rights terminated by the court. Parental rights cannot be reinstated without court action. For a biological parent to gain parental rights after this point, they must, in effect, adopt their biological child (which cannot occur if someone else, the adoptive family, has already adopted the child).
Bad reason #2 to choose international over domestic adoption: “I want a child who looks like me.” Many parents will choose an international adoption (from somewhere like Ukraine), because they want a child that will “look like” them, but the waiting time for a domestic child is too long.
Now, before I totally bash the reasoning behind this decision, let me say that I know transracial adoption might not be for everyone; and I’m not saying that there is something inherently better about adopting a child of a different color. I know there may be some valid, outlier reason to let “same-colorness” desires carry the day in making adoption decisions. With that being said, what I want to lovingly bash is the worldview that leads someone to raise this factor to a level of inordinate prominence in the decision-making process.
So, here is my bashing: Thank God (literally, thank God) that “same-raceness” is not a big priority to him. An integral part of our Heavenly Father’s plan of redeeming the world includes bringing every tribe, language, people and nation into his family through adoption. When we stand before the throne of God on the last day, and we are “crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”, it will be with “a great multitude … from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” (Revelation 7)
When we, through the grace and motivation of God, bring “all the children of the world / red and yellow, black and white” into our visible families as full-fledged sons, daughters, and heirs, we give the world a picture of the peculiar love we received from our Heavenly Father.
So, race needs to be a consideration in the adoption-decision-making process, but please – please – for the glory of God, don’t let it carry the day.
Bad reason #3 to choose international over domestic adoption: “Many of the children in our domestic foster care system have been sexually abused and I don’t want to expose my family to the danger that these children my pose.” True, you should guard your family. Adopting an older, sexually abused child (who could potentially abuse younger children) my cause you to be in dereliction of your duty to protect your family. One social worker I am acquainted with almost never recommends adopting older than your youngest child. This protects your current children, and it protects the newly adopted child from being mistrusted and treated like a ticking time-bomb. , That being said, there are lots of children in the coffers of our nation’s fatherless rolls that would be a good fit for your family. Delve in, and remember, you were not a cute orphan – you were an enemy of God and his family. Yet, God chose to manifest his great love toward us in that while we were yet sinners he sent his Son to die for us so that we might be saved and given the right to become sons of God.