Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from “National Adoption Month: My Family’s Adoption Story,” published in The Stream November 26, 2017.
On Thanksgiving this year, gathered around our table were people whose ancestors came from Africa and Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia.
I’m talking about my wife’s and my children.
Our multi-racial sons and daughter were adopted. Race and ethnicity are acknowledged in our family, but as benign issues. Love and laughter, firmness and faithfulness: these have been the integrating factors of our family life, not hair texture or skin complexion.
Children create family. Whether adopted or biological, children bring disparate people together into a small human community of affection, support, enjoyment, and wisdom.
About 110,000 children are adopted every year in America. About 52,000 are adopted from the foster system, the others through private agencies. Most adopted privately are Americans, but a significant but shrinking percentage are adopted from other countries.
Of those 110,000, about 18,000 are infants.
Thousands of loving and committed American families have sought to adopt from abroad, but it’s become tougher in recent years. The State Department provides troubling numbers: In 2004, 23,000 children born abroad were adopted by Americans. In 2016, that number had fallen to just under 6,000.
Why? Because the five countries from which American families adopted the most—China, Russia, Guatemala, South Korea, and Ethiopia—have revised and tightened their adoption policies. There are a variety of reasons, ranging from stupid national pride (“we can care for our own!”) to bureaucratic corruption.
There are more than 400,000 children in foster care. Of them, roughly 112,000 await adoption.
Children with developmental problems languish in foster care or orphanages. Older children, virtually all of whom have been abused in ugly home environments, await loving homes. Often, they wait in vain, as potential adoptive families are wary of bringing into their homes children who might bring serious problems.
This is where the church needs to step in. If a family adopts a particularly needy child, be he six months or 16 years, the local church must do more than just hold a dedication ceremony and bless the family with prayers and smiles.
Those families need help. They need the services of professional counselors, therapists, remedial educators, developmental experts, and health caregivers. Churches need to be prepared to support, financially, families whose children need that kind of help, possibly for years.
Churches are not banks—resources are limited, admittedly. But when “bigger and better” church buildings are under construction in every state in the union, surely some money can be dedicated to help with needs far more profound than another 30 spaces in a parking lot.
Thankfully, the adoption tax credit ($13,460 per child) has been restored to the new Republican tax reduction plan. In 2015, about 64,000 American families used the tax credit to help them adopt. The tax credit has been a blessing to hundreds of thousands of middle-income families throughout the country—including mine.
The credit helps, a lot. But it still leaves a lot to be done. The churches need to be front and center in helping families adopt children who need homes.
One of the many blessings my wife Valerie and I experienced when we adopted our children was receiving financial assistance from the adoption fund my church had set up. This remarkable ministry comes alongside church members who adopt and helps them pay the substantial up-front costs.
There is so much more to say, but for now, a final note: Valerie’s and my children are not adopted. They were adopted. Now, they are just our children. And, with each of them having come to know Christ, are God’s. At this Thanksgiving and always, these are truths for which we are eternally grateful.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer at Regent University. He previously served as Senior Vice-President at Family Research Council.