An Open Letter to Non-Adoptive Parents
You are in the majority.
The vast majority.
Though Christian families are more than twice as likely to adopt as the average American family, only 5% of them actually adopt. Studies reveal that 38% of them seriously consider it while 26% of non-believers give it any thought.
Growing up, I scarcely remember hearing of adoption or foster care. I never knew an adoptive family or a foster kid. It simply was not on my radar. This condition persisted into my 30’s and years into my Christian walk.
The Holy Spirit introduced us to the idea. Ami and I had attended a prayer event and one of the things we prayed about was the end of abortion. As we were detailing the event to some folks, a friend asked us a question,
“If you’re against abortion, are you willing to take in the unwanted children that the end of abortion would generate.”
Our foster care/adoption journey began in that instant and has dominated our lives to date, at some point just becoming who we were.
I’ve hesitated in addressing this issue because I do feel so strongly about it. My fear is always that my personal beliefs would trump what God says and so my consistent prayer is that my own thoughts and opinions would blow away as chaff in the wind.
All I can do is present the facts as I know them and allow the Spirit to work in your heart much as He did mine. Would you hear Him out?
The Bible assumes care for the orphan.
The Old Testament law stipulates much in the way of social justice, including care for the orphan.
There’s really not a Hebrew word for orphan. Yet the Torah establishes provision for the yathowm (יָתוֹם), the fatherless. The fatherless were among the most powerless in society, the most helpless, and in His mercy and compassion, God requires His people to care for them along with the widow and the sojourner. (Deuteronomy 14:29, 24:17, 24:20-21)
The law even describes God as one who, “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow,” a facet of His character that is communicated just as clearly in the New Testament.
James describes religion as this, “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27) Here is religion, true religion, religion that is “pure and undefiled before God”. Forget a religion that costs you nothing, that makes no demands of you. Faith without works is a dead faith, not really faith at all.
“Visiting” an orphan, gazing upon them with the intent to benefit them or care for them (from the Greek), taking “the least of these” into your home, is akin to caring for Christ Himself. (Matthew 25:40)
It is a Gospel issue, not a social issue.
From Genesis forward, the Bible demands that parents disciple their children.
And the most effective evangelist of all is a loving and engaged father. It’s not even close. The Bible declares it, reality bears it out. Children tend to inherit the faith, or lack thereof, of their fathers.
What of those who have no father?
It was several years into our adoption journey before I realized that adoption is a great Gospel issue. Our oldest son who we adopted from inner-city Memphis at age 16, began to struggle. We did some research and learned that kids who graduate the foster system without being adopted will almost certainly fail in life in some way. Addiction, homelessness, incarceration, children out of wedlock: affliction runs rampant among never-adopted former foster kids. Almost none of them will attend college.
This is a great social issue and for that reason alone, we ought to seek them out. Yet, the social aspects pale in significance to the eternal ones. Children with no father, growing up absent the most effective evangelist, demand a troubling question.
With no father, who will teach them about Christ?
Verifying Scripture’s urgent call to parents to bring up their children in the way of the Lord, reality demonstrates that there are very few adult converts. Most who grow up and leave home without Christ will one day die apart from Christ.
And every year we “graduate” upward of 30,000 foster kids into adulthood who have not been adopted. Most will struggle in life and continually perpetuate the struggle to a new generation but even more troubling…most of them will not know Christ!
Yes the process is painful.
Lord is it painful.
The Lord called us to be a DCS foster family so we’ve shunned private organizations for only that reason. Like with any profession, there are great DCS workers intermixed with a few slackers. Many are extremely overworked, with most handling an enormous caseload.
The system is rife with red-tape and bureaucracy and often moves at a snail’s pace. The system frustratingly errs on the side of the biological family, as it must. Yet, this further exacerbates and complicates the process.
I’ve raged against the system, in frustration and anger. It took nearly four years of pain to adopt two of our sons.
…but I have sons! I’d gladly labor another four if that’s what it took.
How much red tape would you slay to own the home of your dreams or finance your retirement?
They’re kids, at the end of the day.
My family is weird; we like teenagers.
We’ve had a number of young kids over the years, but at some point, the Lord began sending us teenagers. The system is full of teenagers and since many are afraid of teenagers and we were willing to take them, the system obliged.
They are like any other teenager would be without certainty, structure, maybe discipline, love and affection. They smoke weed, have premarital sex. We’ve been lied to, stolen from, cussed at.
And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I recall with particular affinity a number of poignant situations.
There was the time my wife wouldn’t let my oldest son back into the house so in broad daylight, he walked across the street, secured my neighbor’s 30 foot aluminum ladder, and proceeded to prop it against the front of my house and enter his bedroom window to obtain what he wanted…while my wife stood on the front porch and watched.
There was the time we were hosting the youth from our church for a weekend retreat when right in the middle of Bible study, my front door opened and a cop walked in. “Can I help you, Sir!” The girlfriend of one of our young men had called the police over an argument. It turned out to be nothing, but the youth from our church left with a good story.
But they’re kids, kids who’ve been abandoned and betrayed by the very ones who were supposed to love them the most. How could this trauma not impact them emotionally and spiritually?
Shouldn’t the ones most afflicted by society be the ones we lavish the most love upon?
It will challenge you.
There is no way you can open your home to anyone, much less a traumatized youth, and it not impact your life.
Including multiple combat tours to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa, fostering and adopting has been the hardest thing I’ve done.
Fostering and adopting will stretch you out spiritually and demand that you give of yourself more than you ever thought you could give. It will test your spirit, your fortitude, your faith, your relationship with your spouse and your children.
Fostering and adopting jams you into the mold of Christ, whether you are ready or not. The edges may just get ripped off in the process.
Is anything worth doing ever easy?
It’s worth it.
I was daunted, maybe as you are.
I hesitated, resisted, wrestled with the Holy Spirit.
But the Lord never relented and praise God, I have my sons.
My youngest son showed up at two months of age and as I held him, I begged God to remove him from my life. At 42 years of age, I was just too old to start over as a father. I just couldn’t do it. It was just too hard. I didn’t want it.
He wore me down, both God and the little guy. As I gazed into his dark brown eyes, I was overwhelmed by the voice of the Spirit whispering into my ear, “It’s not his fault. It’s not his fault.”
Over three years later, I cannot imagine my life without him, without any of my sons. God, in His sovereignty, brought them to me and I will forever praise Him for this.
We have the capacity.
Though I hesitate in throwing around the idea of shame, we, the church, have more than enough capacity to provide a family for every single orphan in America.
As this is a Gospel issue, it’s certainly a church issue and I challenge you to find a greater blind-spot in the eyes of the church. Believers ought to be elbowing one another out of the way to care for orphaned children. But a mere 5% actually take the plunge…
We have more than enough capacity. What are we worried about, our quality of life?
Consider that over the previous decades, the average American home has nearly doubled in size while the size of the average American family has decreased by nearly a person. Let that sink in. As we’ve become wealthier with bigger homes and smaller families, more and more children languish without a home.
These are just the facts, painful though they may be.
Now you know.
Your biological children will be fine, better than fine. You can afford it. You have enough room. Birth order, it turns out, is irrelevant. It possibly won’t turn out well, as you can’t just wish away years of trauma. There are as many answers as there are questions but the one that bears asking is…what then will you do?
I’ll concede, maybe God is not calling you to open your home to the orphan.
There are other ways to support foster care and adoption. Consult God’s word on the issue. Find a foster or adoptive family and support them. Challenge your pastor to preach about it. Pray about it, seek God, and He will lead you.
All that I believe God requires is that we examine ourselves to this end.
Would you open your heart to the Holy Spirit concerning the orphan?
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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