Orphan Care in Times of National Disaster

Orphans & National DisasterOn October 3rd, as the news began to swell with reports on Ebola, I made a post about how Ebola is affecting orphans. I didn’t actually have a lot to say on the subject. I shared the few things I’d learned about the impact of the virus on orphans and reminded you that the yellow journalism that makes up our news can’t be blindly trusted. Despite my unoriginal content, that post has been getting quite a few hits. That’s not really surprising. Everyone is thinking about and therefore Googling Ebola. It’s been interesting to track the search terms that lead people to TIO. Here’s the phrases used today and yesterday:

  • How to adopt an ebola orphan
  • How to adopt african orphans from ebola
  • Children of ebola how to help
  • Ebola orphans adoption
  • Ebola orphans pictures
  • Adopt ebola orphans
  • Ebola orphans
  • Any groups helping ebola orphans

Like I said. The post has been getting quite a few hits. I’m sure that you noticed a trend as you read the search terms listed above. Over the past two weeks, the searches leading to my blogs have increasingly been about adoption. It’s wonderful that people are aware that Ebola orphans need help, but helping during times of upheaval is a delicate process.

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that international adoption is near and dear to my heart, but I wrestle with seemingly opposite ethical issues involved in the process. If you follow me elsewhere on social media, you might also know that I’ve been (very) slowly trying to slog my way through The Child Catchers. To be quite frank, I wholeheartedly dislike the book. I disagree with much of what the author has to say and find her manner of presenting her content frequently offensive. However, as I mentioned to my brother this week, she raises some very valid points.

One of the stories shared in that book gave me a lot of food for thought. The author shared how, after the earthquake in Haiti, the US went into a Haitian adoption frenzy. The efforts to airlift orphans out of the country and onto American soil were spearheaded by well-meaning, but often uninformed individuals riding the wave of media attention. Now, sometimes drastic times call for drastic measures. When a situations like the Haitian earthquake or Ebola occur, it’s entirely appropriate to pull out all the stops to save lives and minister to people in need–especially orphans. That wasn’t the part that got me thinking. What did bother me was reading that many children with surviving parents were whisked out of the country without proper documentation. Children whose biological parents still wanted them. Some of those kids were adopted into the US and never returned to the parents who never surrendered them.

My point is, by all means, search for ways to help Ebola orphans. Be persistent about it. Don’t let children suffer and die and go uncared for. But at the same time, learn from the mistakes of the past. When a country is in turmoil, mistakes are easy to make. Mistakes that can permanently sever families and do children more harm than good.

If you’re one of the people coming to this blog after searching, “how to adopt an Ebola orphan,” please keep this in mind. Adoption is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But handled in the wrong way, it can cause a lot of pain and grief. Please, do not grow weary in well doing, but be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove in your quest to help.

What do you think? Have you found any ways to help Ebola orphans? Does your church support a missionary in a country affected by Ebola? Have you learned anything about this “national” disaster or any other disaster that could guide you in helping orphans in an informed way? How has the Ebola scare affected you personally?

DR Congo’s Orphans With Families

Ben DillowThis morning I woke up to find this little guy’s picture in my inbox. That adorable smile makes you want to smile back at him, but I didn’t. The title of the email made me dread to read the words around the picture. The headline read, “Rest In Peace, Ben Dillow.”

Ben Dillow was a five year old boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He wasn’t an orphan. In this picture sent out by Both Ends Burning, Ben is holding a picture of his parents. He was legally adopted with approval by both US and Congolese courts. Everything was ready for him to travel to his new home until the Congolese government stopped issuing exit permits.

Last Saturday, Ben was buried in the DRC because his medically fragile condition could not be sufficiently treated in the DRC.

Over the past few months, 350 legally adopted children have continued to wait, living without their families. The situation has caught the attention of lots of people.

I personally have been trying to “not get involved.” With a crazy busy schedule and concerns within my own family as my mom fights cancer, I didn’t want to get sucked into figuring out another political issue concerning orphans. It seems like situations like this are always messy, complicated, and chock full of heavy emotion.

Getting this email today made me jump online and start doing some preliminary digging. The Congolese government claims to be refusing exit permits because of concerns about the health and well-being of previously adopted children. As I’ve stated before, international Adoption is not without problems (read 3 Problems of International Adoption), but whenever I hear about countries closing to adoptions and listen to the arguments of adoption skeptics, my thoughts return to children like Ben Dillow.

If governments are really concerned about the “health and well-being” of children, what about the children like Ben. The kids who are dying because they’re alone. Because the people who love them–or who would love them–are not allowed to reach them. What about the kids who grow up in orphanages and enter adulthood only to die young and continue the vicious cycle of the fatherless.

International adoption might not be the ideal solution for these kids, but until a better system is put in place, why should they be condemned to lives without the hope of a family?

I still don’t understand the details of the politics and reasons surrounding the suspension of exit permits from the DRC. I might not have the time to look into it further. I do know from past research that many situations like these start with a concept that is intended to help kids “in theory.” But all to often the very children supposed to be helped are harmed.

Want to learn more yourself? Read the details on Both Ends Burning, or read personal stories on Blessings & Raindrops and in the post Why I Called the White House Today.

What was your first reaction when you read about Ben? What are your opinions on the current situation in the DRC? What would you like to see happen next? How do you think teens can get involved in this situation?

In closing, I’d like to share this letter Both Ends Burning sent from Ben’s mom.

To Anyone Who Will Listen:

In memory of our son Benjamin Chase Dillow.

I write this letter imploring, pleading, no, begging that my son’s death not be in vain. Benjamin deserved life, he deserved to be united with his family, but was denied that by the senseless suspension of exit permits. He was one of the many critically fragile children that have families waiting helplessly to bring them home.

Benjamin was critically ill but his doctors in the DRC knew and had stated that his health could be greatly improved with more advanced care offered in the US. His story could have been about the life of a young child that was given a chance, a hope of growing up with his brother and sister, a life of birthday parties, and first loves, graduations, memories with his loving family. But instead Ben’s life ended because the DGM failed to see my son as a life. This orphaned boy was not worth the consideration to give him a chance at life. Benjamin’s death should be a warning to the reality of this suspension.

When I look at the eyes of these other critically ill children, I see sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. These children have families that want to give them their home and hearts. We as parents want to hold our children, to comfort them while they are sick. We want to give them the care that they need and deserve, even if it’s only to hold their hand during their last breath. My son passed away on August 4th at Mutumbo Hospital with his care taker by his side.

As my son took his last breaths, he cried for his “Mama”. I cannot tell you the pain of not being by his side; the pain of being helpless to do anything. Please do not let this happen to another child. Give my son’s death meaning! Give these children a chance! Give them life!

Through Tearful Eyes,
Morgan and Grace Dillow

Read the email from Both Ends Burning here.

3 Positives of International Adoption

3 Positives of International AdoptionThis post is part of a series on International Adoption. Part One was 3 Problems of International Adoption. The introduction and explanation for the series can be found on that post.

1. A Brighter Future

Children raised in institutions around the world face a grim future. Life without a family does little to prepare and equip them to support themselves. The statistics are grim. In many countries 60% of female orphanage graduates end up in prostitution while 70% of boys become hardened criminals. In Orphan Justice, adoptive dad Johnny Carr relates his thoughts when a friend asked what would have happened to his daughter had she not been adopted.

 If we, or someone else, had not adopted Xiaoli, her future prospects would have been no different than Xiao Quing’s–living on the streets, sleeping wherever she could find a dry spot, unable to communicate, and addicted to drugs. More than likely, Xiaoli would have been trafficked–taken into custody against her own will, her body sold for men’s dirty pleasure over and over and over again.

There are many valid concerns about international adoption. It certainly is not a journey safe for the faint of heart. But when people cite a child’s right to maintain their nationality and remain in their country of birth, I can’t help but think what that will mean for the Xiao Quing’s of the world.

In an ideal world, of course, children would stay in their own culture and maintain their birth language. But are those things really more important than a family? I don’t think so.

2. Not All Negatives Are True

International adoption has come under heavy fire for abuses of the adoption process. Many concerns are valid, but there are also many accusations that are not valid. For example,

Supporters of international adoption are quiet about the children who are not adopted and left behind. —International Adoption Problems, minute 2:45

I can’t speak for secular adoption circles, but I know that Christian adoption advocates are most certainly not quiet about the children left behind. Bethany Christian Services, a large adoption agency, runs a sponsorship program designed to keep poverty-stricken, biological families together. Christian Alliance for Orphans offers webinars about international orphan care ministry, malnutrition in residential care, and how to help orphans aging out of the system alongside webinars about both international and domestic adoption. Adoptive father Johnny Carr wrote an entire book of how to care for orphans beyond adoption.

Another common argument cites the UN Rights of a Child statement that the right to,

…preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.  —Convention on the Rights of a Child, Article 8

I tend to cringe at the mention of the UN Rights of a Child, but even under this statement, international adoption is not a violation of a child’s rights. A child living in an institution has already experienced severed family relations (before adoption entered the equation). Above board, rule following adoptions are not unlawful interference. And an adoptive family moving their child to a new country is no more a human rights violation than a biological family moving from one country to another.

3. Demonstrates God’s Love

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba Father. —Romans 8:15

This overflow of joy is what makes us desire to protect and care for children in need. We want to do a little bit of what God did for us. When we do, we don’t just preach the gospel–we embody it. We give a picture of the fact that we have been adopted by God and that he takes us on as his children. –Francis Chan in Becoming Home, pg 80

Of course, all adoption does this, but International adoption seems to do it in an especially strong way. We were far, far away from God. We could never reach him on our own strength, but he came and rescued us us anyway. Nationality and patriotism means so much to us now, but as Christians our true homeland is heaven, and our goal–in adoption and otherwise–should be to bring others into that homeland, regardless of their earthly nation of origin.

And he came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. —Ephesians 2:17

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on both the problems and positives of international adoption. There’s so much to think about, and there are certainly more than three points in both direction. What are some that aren’t covered in this two posts?

3 Problems of International Adoption

3 Problems of International AdoptionNo matter what type of adoption you look at, questions abound and definitive answers are hard to come by. Opinions and conflicting opinions, however, are never lacking. Right now, international adoption is at the front and center of adoption conflict. Church and parachurch orphan care and adoption ministries are on the grow, but at the same time, opposition is exploding. Laws surrounding international adoptions continue to get stricter and anti-international adoption advocates are gaining ground.

Last Friday I posted Understanding the Four Types of Adoption. On Facebook, the post was noticed and commented on by Peter Dodds, a guy who was adopted and now advocates against international adoption. He suggested two videos: International Adoption: In Whose Best Interests? and International Adoption Problems (excuse the music on the videos). It’s not the first time I’ve heard of dissent to international adoption. Not too long ago I read an article titled Hannah Williams: The Tragic Death of an Ethiopian Adoptee and The Child Catchers is on my to-read list. I think it’s important to consider both sides of the argument, so I’m going to do a series on the “Problems, Perspectives, and Politics” of international adoption.

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt… –Colossians 4:6a

I have no idea who will see these posts. The argument about international adoption can be an emotionally charged discussion, and it’s easy to step on toes. I’m going to do my best to take a look at the topic with Colossians 4:6 in mind, so tighten your seatbelts and lets go!

1. International Adoption Overlooks Most Orphans

Even the strongest supporters of international adoption admit that the movement of adoptees across international borders represents only a tiny fraction of the abused, neglected, and abandoned children in those countries. —International Adoption Problems, minute 2:30

This is absolutely true. Less than 1% of orphans will ever become available for international adoption. While it is true that many of the remaining 99% might be single orphans living with a remaining parent or double orphans living with relatives (read Who Are Orphans?), it’s obvious that international adoption is not going to provide relief for the majority of orphans around the world.

2. Adoption Isn’t the Best Solution

Poverty is no reason to take children away. Poverty is not a disease and international adoptions are not a solution. —In Whose Best Interests?, minute 2:51

The solution is already in place. It is organizations who provide resources to communities so that they can care for their own children.International Adoption Problems, minute 2:52

Keeping children together with their biological family when it is safe to do so is almost always in a child’s best interests. The second best option is for the child to stay with extended family members, and the third best is for the child to be adopted or permanently “fostered” by a family within their own culture. Keeping kids with their biological families is prevention orphan care. Many wonderful sponsorship programs exist to support this goal.

3. Wrong Emphasis

…the emphasis has changed from the desire to provide a needy child with a home, to that of providing a needy parent with a child. —In Whose Best Interests?, minute 0:54

I don’t necessarily think this is true all or even most of the time. However, in the instances when it is true, it’s absolutely true that adopters need to carefully evaluate their course of action. On the flip side, the matching of two needy groups for the betterment of both sides is a win-win situation. The trick is watch for warning signs that might mean international adoption is not best for a child.

Did you know about the conflict surrounding international adoption before reading this post? What do you think of the problems addressed here? Do you agree or disagree with my take on them? Can you add anything to the discussion?

Stay tuned for more posts on the International Adoption debate. If you have any questions you’d like me to try to answer, leave a comment!

International Adoption Series:
3 Positives of International Adoption