Adopt Local, Dream Global

Posted on by Jeremy Daggett


Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you (NLT)

Christians love this verse because it's straightforward. Apparently though, evangelical Christians have royally dropped the ball on part I of the pure religion initiative—orphan care. Christian overseas adoption practices have recently been accused of taking advantage of lax regulations in developing countries to promote its stateside political agenda. Furthermore, adoption was criticized for being an ideological and agenda-driven obsession, given to corruption, and analogous to human trafficking.

I'll leave it to the adoption experts to continue to battle this one out. My hope is, as always, that the collective Christian response will be humble, informed, and not given to the same unfair tactics often used against Christians.

I would like to offer an alternative to the defensive, knee-jerk reaction to such a critique.

Biblical commands that appear straightforward are complicated by our globalized 21st century reality. Until recently (say, the last couple centuries), generosity was usually a local undertaking. Long-term benefit was readily observed. Now that we can catapult our generosity to the other side of the world, our long-term impact is not as easily discerned and is often misunderstood. Giving responsibly across the world takes a lot more effort.

Giving to a literal neighbor is one thing; giving to a global neighbor, who we may never see, is another thing entirely. And it's when we assume we're entitled to give to whomever we wish that we run into problems.

Tara Livesay has written about some of the cultural issues at play with the adoption of children from Haiti that many from the U.S. overlook. For example: Haitian law requires that adoptive parents have no biological children. Why?

The plausible reason for the law stating no biological children is because we have a culture that presupposes that you won't be able to treat your biological kids and your adopted kids the same. If you have no biological kids you are more likely to fully provide for and love your adopted child.

Our immediate tendency is to assume a law is flawed. We need to fight our ethnocentric instinct and instead ask what cultural or historical dynamics might be at play in the given situation.

I can't offer a comprehensive solution to the ongoing adoption debate, but here are two constructive suggestions for those who still want to help:

Adopt local. It may not be as glamorous as an overseas adoption, but give local foster care and foster-to-adopt opportunities a fair shot. By helping locally, you can be involved in the entire process and should be better equipped to understand the cultural dynamic that caused the need that requires your help. You may even be able to encourage others in your community to get involved.

Dream global. There is a tremendous, worldwide need for adoptive parents. Instead of assuming that U.S. dollars and U.S. presence are the only viable solutions, we need to leverage our creativity and imagination to empower Christians in the developing world to follow the same command that has captured our attention.

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