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May 3, 2007: Prominent evangelical Christians are urging churchgoers to strongly consider adoption or foster care, not just out of kindness or biblical calling but also to answer criticism that their movement, while condemning abortion and same-sex adoption, doesn't do enough for children without parents.

It’s very charitable to urge congregants to take in foster children.  It is quite another to promote adoption without making some clarifications and distinctions, and deeper thought into the intent of our duty to care for “widows and orphans.”

The word orphan is unambiguous: a child who has no parents or extended family to care for him.  There are currently half a million children in foster care in the US.  Of those between 126-143,000 cannot be reunited with their families of origins. The adoption of these children is worthy of promoting.

The word widow requires a bit more explanation and updating.  The Hebrew/bibical word for a widow — almanah — carries multiple meanings: any woman who is left without a provider for any reason; the state of loneliness, abandonment or helplessness. In New Testament Greek, the word for widow is cheras and refers to a woman who has lost her husband in any way, whether through death, divorce, desertion or imprisonment. One scriptural example of this broad definition is found in Isaiah 54, where God describes a woman who has been forsaken by her husband. “For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore” (verse 4). Her husband is alive, yet she is a widow in God’s eyes.

Today, this would likewise include women who were left alone – with child - prior to marriage.  It is clear that Jesus did not judge and commanded us not to.  Promoting adoption as an alternative to abortion for women in crisis pregnancies, or for congregants, ignores the essence of assistance of mothers and children. 

Whether domestic or international, the adoption of infants – as opposed to children already in foster care - might take one child out of poverty but it does nothing to ameliorate the poverty of his family, community or the nation from whence he came. Infants have become a sought-after commodity in demand creating a market of coercion and exploitation both here an abroad. Children in many parts of the word are not "rescued" by adoption - they are stolen, kidnapped and sold into adoption.

The most loving, caring, Christian act is to offer assistance to mothers in crisis. Foster BOTH a mother a child!  Adoption, as it is practiced in the US today, denies those adopted knowing their roots. This was not the case in biblical adoptions, i.e. Moses and others.  Adoption is for the truly orphaned, only.

Adoption should also not be promoted without distinguishing between ethical and unethical agencies and providers, a daunting task in the current climate of privatized US adoptions where anyone – with no training, education, or licensing can hang a shingle and open a business called “adoption agency.”

Perhaps the evangelicals who suggest promoting adoption might read the other two news stories, relased the very same day as thir suggestion (above), and think out their decision more carefully:
May 3, 2007: Simone Boraggina and Joseph Beauvais, owners of “Waiting Angels Adoption Agency” of Macomb Township, Michigan were arraigned on felony counts of racketeering and tax fraud. Police seized $523,700 from safety deposit boxes in the owners' homes -- money prosecutors believe the pair bilked from couples who wanted to become adoptive parents. Couples were promised to help couples adopt Guatemalan children and accepted tens of thousands of dollars in fees but failed to deliver.

May 3, 2007: In Copley Township Ohio, another private adoption business was in trouble with the law, again. The state began investigating “A Child's Waiting.”  Involved in a case of minor child who was allegedly told by the agency to run away from home to relinquish her five month old daughter, the agency was cited for numerous procedural and paperwork violations that could jeopardize its license because it has a history of similar citations, state records show.

The agency also failed to submit acceptable plans detailing how it would make sure the violations don't occur again, the state said. A Child's Waiting was founded in January 2000 and has handled about 1,200 adoptions since then, according to the agency's Web site. The agency has been cited seven times previously for violations because of complaints, and its license has been reduced to ''temporary'' twice because of previous problems, according to state records.

The agency has been cited seven times previously for violations because of complaints, and its license has been reduced to "temporary'' twice because of previous problems, according to state records.

Cited seven times and license reduced to temporary - but still in "business" and acting in very unscrupulous ways!

How can people of good conscience promote adoption when agencies such as this cause harm to adoptive and birth parents, and worst of all to innocent children – every single day.  How can we broad brush support adoption when there is no line of demarcation that anyone can see between ethical and unethical adoption practitioners? How can we advocate a game of Russian roulette with our most precious and most vulnerable?

We have instead a moral obligation to clean up the mess that adoption has become, not to promote it to help our personal or collective image.

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Mirah Riben is a human rights activist with a focus on families, children and adoption reform. She is author of two internationally acclaimed books - "shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption" (1988) and "THE STORK MARKET: America's (more...)

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