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

Advocate & Pray: Nadia


Nadia is a Ukrainian orphan brought to our attention by Lizzie.  (You can find her Compassion blog here.)  Lizzie is advocating for Nadia, and we asked her to share Nadia’s story here.


When I was asked to connect an orphan with a family, I wasn’t sure who to choose.  There are so many children waiting for families.  ​I was drawn to one girl from the Ukraine.  She stood out to me because she was born without eyes and the most recent photo of her was five years old.

I would like you to meet Nadia!

Nadia 2

She just had her picture taken this week!

Nadia was born on December 10, 2003.  She is blind, has severe intellectual disabilities, and has hydrocephalus.  She lives in an Ukrainian orphanage where she is often left alone in a crib.  Even though she does not do many things like you or I would, I am sure that she can still feel joy.  And what joy it would bring her to have a family!

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Join the prayer chain for Nadia

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Understanding the Four Types of Adoption

Every adoption story out there is different from the rest, but most of them (at least in the US) can be categorized into four different types of adoption: International, Foster Care, Private Domestic, and Embryo. Let’s explore all four.
Four Types of Adoption

International Adoption

As it’s name indicates, international (or intercountry) adoption is the practice of adopting children from different countries. International adoption is, in most cases, the most expensive adoption route. The rules for adoption vary widely between different countries open for foreign adoptions from the United States. A lot of controversy surrounds international adoption as people worry that a western “demand” for adoptable children increases the risk of child trafficking. However, approximately 8 million children live in institutional care with no hope of being adopted within their own country. Statistics indicate that of the children who graduate from institutional care, the majority turn to crime and prostitution. Approximately 1,530,000 orphans are available for adoption by American citizens. For these children, international adoption may be their only hope of finding permanent families. International adoptions can take anywhere from 1 to 10+ years to complete and cost an average of $30,000.
Learn More
CAFO Articles on International Adoption
Both Ends Burning/Stuck Documentary
Intercountry Adoption | Bureau of Consular Affairs
Becoming Home
The Global Orphan Crisis

Adoption from Foster Care

Around 400,000 children live within the United States foster care system. Of those children, over 100,000 are waiting <!–ato be adopted. Adoption through foster care is the most affordable way to adopt, though it also results in the highest level of governmental involvement. It generally takes a year to have a a child placed in a family adopting through foster care and costs between $0 and $1,000.
Learn More
CAFO Articles on Foster Care
Adopt Us Kids
Small Town, Big Miracle

Private Domestic Adoption

Private domestic adoption usually occurs when a birth mother decides she cannot adequately provide for her baby and chooses to create an adoption plan.  These adoptions can be closed (the adoptive family knows nothing of the birthmother and vise versa), semi-open (some information is exchanged between the two parties), and open (long term contact is maintained between the birthmother and adoptive family). While the birthmother sometimes asks an agency to select an adoptive family for her, often the birthmother looks through prospective families’ files and makes the choice herself. Voluntary newborn adoption generally costs between $10,000 and $30,000. The typical wait is one to two years.
Learn More
Open Adoption
Other Types of Adoption
My Name is Sonya & I’m a Birth Mom

Embryo Adoption

I don’t know much about this one, and I’m still trying to decide what I think of it. If you have opinions, I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment. I first learned of it on the Nightlight Christian Adoptions website while putting together the Resource page for TIO. If you want to learn more, you can visit Nightlight’s Snowflake Embryo Adoption page.
NOTE: Younger teens, please check this with your parents before clicking. Thanks!

Advocate & Pray: Zack

ZachZach is a little boy being advocated for on the same site as Olive. He’s described as a brave boy who is smart and insists on caring for himself despite his special needs. Please help him find his family by joining us in advocating for him.

Zach is listed with No Hands But Ours

Zack is a very charismatic and outgoing boy who is usually very happy. He is a clear favorite of the nannies at his institute. He has a big personality and had the nannies laughing during one of his visits with us. He is described as being very smart by his caregivers. He recently received an award recently for creativity as well as one for his inventions. When asked what he wants to be when he grows up he said an historian. Zack is very friendly and outgoing and he has a lot of friends at school and the orphanage.

Zack is very short for his age and his caregivers believe he has either mucopolysacchardosis IV or spondyloepiphysealdysplasia (both are forms of dwarfism). Zack’s legs are in an X-shape with his knees together. He is able to climb stairs on his own and walk and run. Although his legs are shaped differently and he is short, he insists on doing things himself and is able to take care of his own needs.

Visit Zack’s Profile

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This week I’m praying for, Chinese orphan Zack. Join me! Click to Tweet

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Advocate & Pray: Olive

OliveOlive is an eight year old girl from China diagnosed with hydrocephalus, or excess fluid in the brain.  This has caused her to have seizures and learning problems, and it is unknown if Olive will require any treatment when she is placed with her family. Despite her health issues, Olive is cheerful and loves playing with her friends.

Olive is listed with No Hands But Ours

Olive is a very pretty little girl who is 8 years old. She came into care as an infant, and was diagnosed with hydrocephalus. She, to our knowledge, has not received surgery. Olive’s development has been a bit delayed, but she is an active and happy girl. She loves school, where she is very careful when doing her work. Olive is a social little girl, who always lets her friends go first when they play. Olive likes to sing and dance, and enjoys performing for others. 

An update was received at the beginning of April on Olive. She had 3 seizures in 2012, was put on Depakote, and has not had another seizure since. Her balance can be an issue when she runs. She has a learning disability; it takes her longer to retain new information than other kids her age.

Visit Olive’s profile

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Join the prayer chain for Olive

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Join me in praying for Olive to find a forever family.  Click to tweet

Olive is waiting for a family to care for her needs.  Click to tweet

Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 3)

Viktor and Yuri

Did you miss Advocating: You Can Do It Too, part 1 and part 2? If so, you might want to go back and read those before reading this last installment of McKennaugh’s story of advocating for three Ukrainian orphans and her encouragement that you can do the same.


I started waking up before four in the morning and doing my online advocating before the day started and I wouldn’t have time. I would surf the net for blogs that might repost Yuri and Viktor’s story. Mom blogs, pastors’ websites, blogs about children with disabilities, Christian teens’ blogs—these were just a few of the genres that I targeted. I would send an email that explained who I was and what I was trying to do and I would attach an article about Yuri and Viktor. I contacted dozens and dozens of people. A handful responded. Their emails said, “Your post is beautiful, but perhaps you could find a blog that talks about special needs AND adoption…” Or they would say, “I will pray about posting it…”

I burned with anger. When I say this, I don’t want you to think I was hateful towards these people, no, I just felt this righteous fury lit inside me as I thought, “My post is not beautiful. It speaks of dying children.” Or, “Your last post was about your kids making cupcakes. Did you pray before you hit the ‘Save to Live’ button on that?” I never let those people know my feelings, but I did curl up in a corner and write a passionate poem asking them, “Why?”  I never sent it, I never intended to. But the words helped ease my aching heart as I cried, “Does no one care?”

Surprisingly, most people don’t. They may say, “Oh, what a great thing you’re doing…” but would never lift a finger to help you.

Then you find a few souls out there willing to lend a hand. Out of all the people I contacted, one lady posted the article on her blog here: http://www.faithfulmomof9.com/come-with-me-walking-through-the-memories-of-a-ukrainian-orphanage/

She probably never realized how rare and appreciated her willingness to help was.

During my struggle to find these children families, however, I realized that I also had to be thankful to those who put me down. Why? Well, when someone told me how great I was for what I was trying to do (which wasn’t true—I was simply doing what we all should do) I felt thankful for their kindness. But it never inspired me. When someone told me I shouldn’t do it, or I should give up, or my cause wasn’t worthy, I was inspired. How come? I jumped up fighting. It put new energy inside me, pushed me harder. I reached further, climbed higher, and became more daring.

A fire doesn’t burn unless sticks are thrown at it. The sticks and stones tossed at me made the fire in my heart burn stronger. It forced me to try harder. I knew I couldn’t give up; I couldn’t shirk my duty on others…because I was often the only one. So, if you are advocating and you feel everyone is looking down on you, don’t let it make you want to give up. Let it build you up. That may sound strange. It took me a long time to learn that. It might take you a while, too, but, eventually, you may find that trials are really the strength you search for.

I wound up submitting an article to The Rebelution. It was a breakthrough. Finally. Brett Harris was so willing to get the word out. I will always be thankful to him and the Rebelution (therebelution.com). People all over the nation (world?) shared about these boys through their site. Yuri and Viktor received families. However, shortly after deciding to come for him, I learned that Viktor’s family would be unable to proceed due to issues unrelated to his adoption.

The family adopting Yuri decided they would come for both boys.

They are still in the process.

During the time that I found these children families, I learned many things, some of them the hard way.

The two most important things I learned are: Always pray, always ask for God to guide you to the right people. And never lose your perseverance. Never. This was one of those things I learned the hard way.

Do you already know of a child who needs a home? Don’t wait. You could save a life. Speak up. Be the hands and feet all Christians are called to be. God can and will use anyone. After all, he used a 14-year-old who, in the eyes of the world, had no hope of success. God uses the unlikely. And, if you let Him, He will certainly use you. Nobody else can be the change you were created to be.

Note: Want to advocate, but don’t know anyone to advocate for? I have a Ukrainian friend who keeps on sending me photos of children who desperately need adopted. Some of them have special needs and some are “normal” children. If you would like to help to find one of them a family you may email me at mckennaugh [at] inbox [dot] com.


Did this series of posts give you ideas for how you might advocate for a child? Have you done any advocating in the past? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 2)



If you missed part one of this series of posts, please take a moment to go back and read Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 1). McKennaugh is sharing with us her story of advocating for three children in Ukraine. We left off with Katia’s story making it into the Above Rubies E-zine.


I got a flood of emails from people that wanted to help. Many acted like they wanted to adopt her. My hopes would rise. Then I would copy her typed-up medical record and paste it into an email along with my thoughts and observations about this little girl. Usually potential families stopped here. Taking care of a child who couldn’t even bend at the waist or knees? A child who was fed through a tube and couldn’t open her own clenched hand? They turned away and I can’t say I blamed them. But my heart ached for Katia and I thought, “Somewhere, somewhere there must be a family for you!”

The first e-zine article generated donations for the yet-to-be-found family, but no family itself. (I now would not recommend for people to take donations before a child has a family. I could have had a very stressful situation on my hands if Katia never received adoptive parents!! I think that pledges are a much better idea to accept! Then you are not responsible for people’s money.)

I watched the stats on my site slide downward and knew that the e-zine had not reached Katia’s family…this time. I continued blogging and begging for a family for her. I made a short video for her. (Note: Katia is called Levina in this clip & the link at the end of it is no longer associated with me—I stopped running the website and the domain was purchased by someone else.)

I was a determined kid. Once again, I sent a request to Above Rubies. I asked them to place something else about Katia in their next e-zine. This time it was a poem.

To make a long story short, Katia’s adoptive parents saw that poem. They contacted me. I copied the medical record. I sent it to them. They read it.

They didn’t say no.

They came. To Ukraine. To Katia. By this time, I was 15. She was 7. She didn’t know I changed her life. She didn’t know she had changed mine. How? She showed me that anybody—even backwoods girls who hardly knew a soul—could make a difference.

If they only tried.

I wasn’t done trying. Yuri and Viktor, two other disabled children I had met in Ukraine, needed homes, too.

Somewhere along the way here, I had become a columnist for Homeschooling Teen e-zine. I published an article there about Yuri and Viktor. I was contacted by a lady who said they would adopt Yuri. I was thrilled. The next few events made me slightly wary that something wasn’t quite right, though. We kept in regular contact for a while, then I didn’t hear from them for a couple months. I sent them an email asking how everything was going. They said they had run into problems with US income requirements and would not be able to adopt Yuri.

A sent another article into Homeschooling Teen. Yuri and Viktor remained without a family. For a time, I lost my perseverance. Yuri and Viktor waited in their cribs. Waited for me to speak up for them.

And I didn’t.

Then, out of the blue, I got an email from a man who was surfing the web and had found my Homeschooling Teen article, though it had now been months since it was published. He couldn’t adopt Viktor, but he wanted to help him in any way he could. Could he send aid to the children? No, I responded, aid wouldn’t get to them. But I asked him if he would spread the word—Viktor needed an adoptive family. He jolted Viktor and Yuri back to the front of my mind and I thought, “These boys are depending on me!”

Stay tuned for the final installment of this article. Do you think you could do what McKennaugh did? Would you find the possibility exciting or scary? Or both?

Advocating: You Can Do It Too (pt 1)

McKennaugh and KatiaIn the six months that TIO has been up and running, several people have stood out as youth who are really enthusiastic about TIOs vision. One of those people is McKennaugh Kelley. I contacted her to ask her to guest post after reading a guest post she did on The Rebelution. She wrote Loving Katia part one and part two. The story of how a teenager could find a family for an orphan captivated me, so when she contacted me about advocating for Miroslav, I asked her to do a how-to on advocating for orphans. The article turned out quite long, so it’s going to be a series. I hope you are inspired.


Take a 14-year-old girl who is homeschooled in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. She spends her free time climbing trees, swimming, hiking, and writing. She enjoys heralding in spring mornings before the birds, embarking on all things strange and adventurous, and will do almost anything to make someone laugh. Add her to a Ukrainian orphanage five thousand miles away, tear her heart out, give it to three little special needs kids, and send her back home. She doesn’t know anyone interesting in adopting disabled children a world away, but she doesn’t care. Putting clumsy fingers to a keyboard, she decides that she will do everything she can to bring to these children the love she knows they wait for.

It wasn’t the perfect recipe for success.

But you know what?

It worked.

Hi, I’m the strange 14-year-old slightly grown up. I’m turning 18. I spent three months in Ukraine with my family, seven weeks of which was spent at an orphanage. Three hours a day, every day. I had fallen into a place that I wouldn’t have believed existed a short year and a half before. I had cold water tossed onto my happy childhood. I was suddenly awake, older. These kids had had that awakening the day they were born. They received no happy childhood.

I was determined that I would bring one to them. It might be a little late, but they would have another chance. Leah of TIO asked me to share with you how I found families for three children, Yuri, Viktor, and Katia (aka Levina). So the following is the story of my struggle for them and some tips and encouragement to you…because you can bring love to a child, too. These are not instructions or guidelines, they are simply what I did and I hope that you can grab a few of my ideas, shape them for your situation, and take them a step further. I have summed this up so that I may have a chance of you reading it to the finish. If I were to tell you each detail, each failure and success, I would be typing for a month. So here is the small (but still long…) version, of a hard, good, terrible, wonderful story…

Fingers, staggering about the computer keys. The keys ought to have been crooked—I had typed this little girl’s plight so many times! Writing up her medical record alone took more time than I would care to admit, as I fumbled through spelling terms that I didn’t know the meanings of. If the list of diagnoses failed to make people understand Katia’s condition, the words “fifteen pounds and six years old” put it in a pretty shocking perspective. After that, I didn’t have to try quite as hard to explain what Katia’s life had been like. I started out advocating for her by blogging on my previously existing website. I got some people to pass my posts around, and tell her plight to people I wouldn’t have otherwise reached. I didn’t have a huge following, so the responses were few. I did have one very special friend who was a huge help and gave me so much encouragement. She loved Katia deeply, though she had only met her through my photos. This woman and I exchanged emails frequently, updating each other on any news about Katia. She basically turned her blog into a home for Katia’s story and photos. She spoke at conventions and handed out fliers about this little girl. On the days that I felt I would never find Katia a family, she was there backing me up, telling me that we could do it. She prayed for, loved and genuinely cared for this child halfway around the world. It is so helpful to have a friend to fall back on. A friend who will help you fight for a cause that you both know is worthy.

I called up the editor of a magazine that I read and loved, Above Rubies. It’s full of stories centered around family, adoption, birthing, mommyhood, and natural living. It goes out to thousands and thousands of people. Getting an article in their actual magazine would be difficult, but getting something in their e-zine was slightly more possible. I talked with the editor who told me that there are so many thousands of children like Katia who need help—she was simply another case.

I responded that there, indeed, are thousands of children who live in terrible situations. ButI had met Katia, I had seen her struggling for each breath, and I knew there was only one of her. And we had to let her know she was loved.

Katia got her story in the e-zine.

Have questions or comments for McKennaugh (or me)? Leave a comment. And stay tuned for part two!

Advocate & Pray: Miroslav

MiroslavSummer2012TwoMiroslav was brought to our attention by site reader McKennaugh. Miroslav’s profile describes him as cheerful and creative, but I’ll let McKennaugh introduce him to you below.


Miroslav is five years old and he has cerebral palsy. Before he was 2, he lived with his family, but then they left him in the orphanage, where I met him. I got to meet his biological mother, too. She said she was going to leave him at the orphanage for a year where he could get therapies for his cerebral palsy and “good care.” However, we knew he was not receiving any therapy or care. We prayed that his mom would take him back sooner, because we knew a year in that place could destroy a child. Sadly, over a year after I had came back to the US, I found a photo of him online. He was still at the orphanage. His mother had never brought him home. I just received word that Miroslav has become available for adoption. He desperately needs a family. He is so, so sweet. We called him “angel boy.” He had the most innocent, forgiving, loving personality. I don’t know if I have ever met anyone that seemed to have such a pure spirit about them. I can’t even explain it. I am hoping that we can get some people to start sharing his story so he has a chance of getting adopted. Ukraine is having a very hard time right now, and Russia has taken over Crimea. Adoptions in that region have shut down. Miroslav does not reside in Crimea, but there’s no way of telling if time is running out for him, too.

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Sweet and cheerful Miroslav is in the Ukraine, waiting for a family. Click to tweet

Note from Leah

McKennaugh wrote the guest posts Loving Katia (pt 1) and Loving Katia (pt 2). If you haven’t read that story yet, I encourage you to do so. It’s amazing. McKennaugh’s love and determination made an incredible difference in Katia’s life. Now McKennaugh is asking us to help her share Miroslav’s story in the hopes that he’ll find a miracle of his own.

Update on Greta

GretaRemember praying for little Greta? Well I have some good news. Her status on Reece’s Rainbow now says “My Family Found Me“! I spent some time trying to find out if her family has a blog, but so far no luck. Keep praying for this little girl. From what I understand, adopting from Ukraine works a bit differently than it does in other countries. While you can plan to adopt a specific child, until you go to Ukraine and are matched with that child in-person, there is no guarantee you’ll get him or her. You can read how the process works on the International Adoption Bureau of Consular Affairs website. The bottom line is, it’s awesome that a family has decided to make Greta their daughter, but both Greta and her family still need plenty of prayer!

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to keep praying for Olexander, the current A&P child. We’ve now prayed for eleven children! I admit it’s getting hard for me to remember all their names and needs. They all deserve to be remembered, though. When you have a few extra minutes, try scrolling through the list and praying for each of them.

Many thanks to Corina Lucas for posting on the TIO Facebook page to let us know the good news about Greta.