By Rick Morton
Adoption is a significant step for any family and can surface a number of important issues worthy of thinking through. When we consider the Father’s gracious adoption of us in Christ, however, I think many of the common questions and concerns—like “can I love a child that I did not birth like ‘my own’?” or “isn’t adoption just too costly?”—simply melt away. (The financial question is addressed at length in Orphanology.)
Having said that, I do not believe that adoption is for every believer. There are certainly questions that all prospective adoptive parents should ask before launching into the adoption process.
1. Am I prepared spiritually for the adoption process?
Parenting is spiritual warfare, and the journey to become a parent through adoption is as well. Let’s be honest. Satan does not want children to be adopted into the homes of families who are committed to Jesus and who will raise these children under the influence of the gospel. It is in the devil’s interest for them to be left in places of darkness. Adoptive parents should be wholly committed to the adoption process and enter that process expecting difficulty and attack—before, during, and after. Adoption has a way of making us aware of our powerlessness and our desperate need for the Lord. How do you prepare yourself for the journey? You deepen your pursuit of Jesus as His disciple. Pray, dive into the Scriptures, surround yourself with a community of brothers and sisters for growth and accountability, and be a part of building Jesus’ kingdom. Being actively involved in an adoption does not give you a pass to take a time-out on the body of Christ. On the contrary, in this time you need the body perhaps more than ever.
Examine yourself. Is your relationship with Christ growing? Are you sustained by it? Your child will need all of you and all of the Spirit’s presence in you. Adoption is not a way for you to make up for deficiencies in your own spiritual life. There will be tough days and you will need to rely on a vibrant, healthy relationship with Christ, both during the adoption process and in your journey as a parent. In fact, there are some days that Christ will be all you can hold on to. If there are deep struggles or sins in your life that hinder your relationship and obedience to Christ, deal with them first. Then consider adoption. It will be better for all involved.
2. Am I relationally and emotionally prepared for the adoption process?
Adoption is not a way to fix problems in a family. Adopting a child into a family will stress every existing relationship in that family. Similar to the addition of a new baby to a household by birth, the addition of an adopted child forces the renegotiation of every relationship in the family. If the adopted child is older, the complexity of the task only increases. Unless you are starting from a healthy foundation, the road promises to be hard.
3. Am I financially prepared for an adoption?
For many people, the financial ramifications of adoption can be among the most off-putting aspects of this entire conversation. In truth, even the most expensive international adoptions are really not that expensive when you think about it. Many families will spend more for a family car than it costs to adopt. And that does not factor in tax credits or financial aid, which will offset the expense. The real hidden financial consideration for many families are the ongoing medical costs that may be involved with adopted children. Poor prenatal care or institutional life may result in physical or psychological deficits that will require medical treatment. Do you have adequate medical insurance, dental insurance, and income to provide these needed services?
4. Have I done my homework?
There are many types of adoption (foreign or domestic, infants or older children, healthy or special needs, open or closed, etc.), and families should try to become as educated as possible about all the issues surrounding their case. I would advise choosing an adoption agency that provides parent education/training as part of the adoption process. Along the way, you may hear health terms like fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), reactive attachment disorder (RAD), pervasive development disorder (PDD), and many others thrown around in relation to adopted kids who have gotten off to a tough start. More and more, there are books, seminars, and conferences around the country especially designed to help adoptive parents and even those simply considering adoption. As an adoptive parent, you want to understand these types of diagnoses before you adopt and what to expect. I believe that God would have us adopt the difficult kids from the hard places. After all, he adopted us, and we were irrevocably broken in our sin. Also, we must remember that God’s grace is sufficient for us and for our children . . . even those who come from the hard places!
5. Am I socially ready?
Do you have a support network of brothers and sisters in Christ, friends, and family who will care for and pray for you and your family through this journey? Do you have people in your life who have adopted with whom you can compare notes and lean on for support? God has given us the gift of each other in the body of Christ, and we need the prayer, love, and support of others who will love us before, during, and after the adoption process.
Quite frankly, older adopted children sometimes can put their adoptive parents into socially awkward and embarrassing positions. I was talking to a pastor friend the other day. Members of his church have adopted into their families several teenage orphans from international institutions. He told me about one family offering up a praise report that their 16-year-old was “down to smoking half a pack a day!” Now, that is real. And if we are honest, a little uncomfortable.
None of us intend to write into our adoption “fairy tale” a child’s recovery from nicotine addiction or a sexually transmitted disease. We pray those are not things we will have to deal with, but part of bringing kids home from the hard places is dealing with the hard things. You can’t do that under the specter of shame and isolation. You need the support and prayer that is found only in genuine community in the body of Christ.
So ultimately the question you will find yourself asking over and over in the adoption process probably will be, “Am I ready?” The answer will likely be, “No.” The great news is that you do not have to be ready or capable, you just have to be available. Remember, if you’re a believer, God promises the resources for every good work in His name:
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV).
All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Rick Morton is the coauthor of Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care. He, along with his wife, Denise, played an integral role in the cofounding of Promise 139, an international orphan-hosting ministry.