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Tom Velie responds recent criticism of international adoption

October 30, 2013

Earlier this week the Associated Press published an article entitled “Challenging Time for Christian Adoption Movement.” The article provided an interesting look at international adoption, even highlighting situations that occurred 15 years ago, without providing credit to the dedicated adoption professionals who work for mostly non-profit adoption agencies.

One of the general rules of research is that using articles more than 10 years old is not considered best practice. In other words, child trafficking stories that are 15 years old would be best balanced with, at the very least, a reference and credit to the U.S. State Department, the Council on Accreditation and the hundreds of good agencies that have submitted themselves to the Hague Accreditation process.

Personally, I’m wearied by the international trafficking stories that are put under the umbrella of adoption. I’ve spent weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal. Young teenage boys offer plastic flowers for sale by day and, “Nice young girls for sex–15 years old–I can get you 12 year old if 15 is too old,” at night. Adoption isn’t in the discussion–the sex trade is. Let’s continue with Nepal as the example. UNICEF states that there are hundreds of thousands of orphans in Kathmandu. At it’s height in 2008-2009, the cap on children from Nepal being available for adoption to U.S. families was 200. Two-hundred, compared to thousands upon thousands? Do the math…girls in Nepal orphanages “age out” at 14-15 years of age, and 90% of those girls (in each age group) will end up in the sex trade. Not promoting quality adoption is to promote the sex trade in many countries. So, some say, “Let’s place the Nepali orphan in a foster/resource home.” Nice try–ever heard of “bad karma?” Ever been to Kathmandu? Ever seen the overwhelming poverty? Yes…I’ve spoken to traffickers in Kathmandu, and it’s just common sense that an orphaned child in Nepal would be much safer being adopted into a U.S. family’s home. But, there are no adoptions from Nepal because, as some say, “We are going to make certain that there is no fraud and we will stop all adoptions to accomplish that”—and they have. Has that stopped trafficking and the sex trade in Nepal? No, it’s worse than ever before.

Around 2005, I was approached by a family who wanted to adopt internationally “because their pastor was encouraging everyone in the church to adopt.” The proverbial yellow flag was waving and we immediately began training our social workers to not approve a family whose primary reason for adopting involved pastor instruction to do so–or a belief that doing so for merely evangelical purposes was a good thing. This was simply a “common sense, good practice” decision. However, we don’t expect the Christian, Jewish, Mormon, Mennonite or Amish family to leave their faith at the door when they adopt. What happened to our respect for diversity, or does it only apply when it’s not involving Christians? Are Christian families not as capable of adopting a child and raising that child to respect the faith of others? Are they not capable of teaching their children how to think for themselves so they will one day determine in their own heart and mind how they will choose to serve, or not serve, their God?

Someone referred to Christians as having a “savior” mentality. I challenge that person to tell me what the difference is between a family who believes they are being obedient to their call or love for humanity (or society) that allows the erection of a Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and calls out “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.” I’m proud to be an American and love to see the successful immigrant entrepreneur who loves “my” country. Then why is it wrong to be a Christian and see the orphaned, fatherless, motherless, sick child come to my country and my home–one that is filled with faith—knowing that their tomorrow will be brighter than today? Where has good old “common sense” gone?

International adoptions have been beaten to the ground by naysayers who have never adopted, who don’t have a clue what is involved in Hague Accreditation, who find bashing Christians as acceptable as talking bad about the Minnesota Vikings (yes, I’m a Cheesehead), and who have never set foot in a poverty stricken orphanage overseas.

I believe that it’s time for us to start praising the Chuck Johnsons, Craig Juntenens, Marlys Ubens, Ron Stoddarts, Frank Blocks and Cathy Soneses of America. They work tirelessly to bring hope, through adoption, to a few more children–while the arrogant and ignorant curse the good work they are doing.

My late father told me on many occasions, “If you never do anything in life, you’ll never make a mistake.” Perhaps I’ve made some mistakes along the way–36 years of marriage to one woman, two baby girls adopted internationally who are educated, productive, intelligent, independent adults, as well as wonderful wives and mothers, operating an international adoption agency that continues to operate a good orphan home in Kathmandu without any adoptions happening from Nepal?”

What productive thing have you done, Mr. Critic? Before you “bash” the good others are doing, ask yourself what you have done to make a difference in the lives of the thousands of children who cannot speak for themselves, but if they could, would tell you how they long for the stability and love that only life with a mom and dad can provide – a longing that most likely can only be filled by loving parents through adoption.