My life is forever transformed because of international adoption. I’m an adoptee from Romania. I intimately know the joys and sorrows of adoption, and I carry with me the stories of orphans I’ve met in my work.
Adoption is deeply complex because it always involves loss and sacrifice. For a birth parent, the loss is enormous. These courageous women and men make the choice to plan an adoption for their children while counting the cost of their own loss. For an adoptive parent, the sacrifice can be financial, as international adoptions require the investment of tens of thousands of dollars. For an adoptee, the cost is enduring a break in their biological family, the likely loss of culture and language, and ongoing questions of identity.
While the cost for all involved is great, the need is even greater. Children without parents or kin to care for them are growing up in countries around the world today without safe, permanent, and loving homes.
COVID-19’s Effect on Adoption
Understandably, the COVID-19 pandemic halted the intercountry adoption process for many families in the United States. Multiple heartbroken families are uncertain when, or if, they’ll be able to travel to finalize the adoption of their children. Certain nations’ rules may not allow a child’s adoption to be finalized if they age out of the child-welfare system, meaning the coronavirus could permanently sever a waiting child’s chance to have a home. Nearly 400,000 people have already died globally from the coronavirus; no doubt even more children will be orphaned because a parent or kinship caretaker perished.
While the cost for all involved is great, the need is even greater.
Even before the coronavirus swept through the world, intercountry adoption was in a steep decline. In 2004, adoption across foreign borders peaked at 22,989. In 2019, only 2,971 children were welcomed into families through intercountry adoption. The reasons for this decline vary, from certain countries completely halting their intercountry programs to other countries placing more children in homes domestically. There’s also been a decline in stateside adoption agencies facilitating intercountry adoption, narrowing the options for prospective parents.
Many countries and cultures are becoming more open to domestic foster care and adoption. That is certainly good news, and ought to be encouraged. However, there are still millions of orphans worldwide who long to be raised in a family where they are known and loved, instead of as a number in an impersonal institution. Intercountry adoption must remain a viable option for welcoming those children into homes, and we must do all we can to facilitate those adoptions. In some countries, especially developing nations, the only chance a child might have at growing up in a safe, loving, permanent home is intercountry adoption.
Years ago, I had the privilege of visiting my country of origin, Romania. One chilly evening, we were touring the capital city, Bucharest, and our car stopped at a red light. A girl who couldn’t have been older than 12 walked up to the car window, begging for money. As our driver handed her a few dollars, hot tears rolled down my cheeks.
That could have been me . . .
I’ll never know what my life would have been like if I hadn’t been adopted. Would I have grown up in an institution, never knowing familial love? Would I have ended up on the streets begging? Or would I have aged out of a child-welfare system, hunting for food, shelter, and safety? Thankfully I’ll never know, but that’s not the case for every vulnerable child.
How You Can Help
The cries of the world’s vulnerable children must be met with people who endeavor to welcome them with open hearts, loving arms, and permanent homes. How can individuals and churches support international adoption? Below are a few practical ways you can help.
Each of us can intercede on behalf of vulnerable children globally. Pray:
- that orphans and vulnerable children are safe, loved, and cared for amid this pandemic.
- for families to consider opening their homes and hearts to vulnerable children through international adoption.
- for those currently serving and caring for orphans and vulnerable children.
Consider Intercountry Adoption
Thousands of children worldwide are waiting for families, and that need will become greater in the weeks and months to come, due to the devastating ripple effects of COVID-19. Since many families are currently at home, now is an excellent time to begin the adoption process. Many adoption agencies will walk families through the home-study process virtually. Now is a wonderful time to get a head start on the paperwork involved in becoming an adoptive family.
Consider offering financial help to a family in your church or community in the process of adopting internationally. Intercountry adoption can be expensive, and while grants and financial assistance are available, those funding streams often don’t cover enough of the financial burden. If you don’t personally know an adoptive family, consider financially assisting a nonprofit on the frontlines of serving the world’s most vulnerable children.
As the world grapples with the fallout of COVID-19, Christians should be on the frontlines—seeking to alleviate the suffering of little ones without a mom or dad, and without the safety and security of a family. The need is great, and it only continues to rise. Christians are instructed to care for the fatherless (e.g. Isa. 1:17, James 1:27)—a call to care that should transcend borders.