7 first steps for families considering adoption

November 28, 2018

November is National Adoption Month. Over the past couple of decades, the church has experienced a stirring of responsiveness about all types of care for orphaned and vulnerable children, and an increase in awareness of adoption has been part of this movement. In fact, according to the Barna Research Group, almost 40 percent of practicing Christians in America have considered adoption.

Quite possibly you have or someone close to you has considered adoption. If you are one of the millions of Christ-followers in America who are considering adoption, the questions can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? Here are several things to consider if you are thinking about adoption:

1. Realize that not everyone should adopt.

This may seem like an odd thing to say in an article about first steps in adoption, but I think, at times, we have a difficult time separating the biblical call to care for orphans from adopting. The call to care for orphans is universal to every Christ-follower, but not everyone is called to adopt. And quite frankly, not every family should adopt. There are a variety of ways that you can be involved in orphan care (and even adoption) without adopting.

2. Pray.

Pursuing adoption is a major, life-altering undertaking that can involve a great deal of difficulty and waiting in the process to bring a child home. Adoption will introduce complexity and challenges to your family. Prayer is essential before, during, and after an adoption. Invite friends and family to pray with you and for you as you discern God’s will regarding adoption.

3. Count the cost.

In any case, adoption is costly, and the cost goes far beyond the obvious financial considerations. To adopt is to enter into some level of brokenness and disappointment with children, and this is true of every adoption. We do not come to it without there having been loss. That may be the loss of a relationship with a birth parent, the loss of a child’s personal story, or even the loss of safety and security through abuse and neglect.

As an adoptive parent, you will experience the effects of these losses for yourself and with your child, and you must be ready to accept the weight of this loss personally and for your family. Adoption may even require changing strongly-held thoughts and practices. This decision may involve factoring in your family’s ability to afford doctors and therapists in addition to the cost of an adoption itself. You must be willing to adapt your family’s rhythm of life to accommodate the needs of a child coming from a hard place. Adoption may also involve changing your parenting style (in seemingly unconventional ways) in order to meet the unique needs of an adopted child.

4. Find a support system.

Given the unique challenges and complexities that adoptive families often face, building relationships with other adoptive families––especially those who are farther along in the journey––is an invaluable resource. Seek out these friends. Ask them questions. Spend time with them, and observe their families. Seek their prayers. Be bold enough to ask a godly adoptive couple to mentor you. The right couple will be a rich source of information and wisdom as you consider adoption.

5. Do your homework.

Adoption is a complex endeavor. Take the time to learn about the different types of adoption: private infant adoption, adoption from foster care, special needs adoption, intercountry adoption, transracial adoption, etc. Each type of adoption has unique requirements, costs, processes, and effects on the family. Understanding as much as possible about the variables that are common to each type of adoption will help you make a well-informed, prayerful, and wise decision. Church adoption ministries, adoptive parent support groups, and adoption providers can be great sources of information.

6. Prepare yourself.

In adoption, it can be easy to focus on the child (or the idea of a child) that you are bringing into your home while forgetting about yourself. Just like you would never think of running a marathon without training first, you should never think of pursuing an adoption without first preparing yourself. You must prepare physically, emotionally, and spiritually for the journey.

All too often, prospective adoptive parents come to adoption with unresolved issues in marriage (or even with infertility), and they think adopting will solve their issues. In reality, the process of adoption can stress a marriage greatly, especially in areas that are already weak. Take time to actively seek the Lord to strengthen you and your marriage as you consider adoption, and throughout the process. Also, be prepared to use the time of waiting to grow in Christ as a disciple and to grow together in marriage by intentionally investing in your spouse.

7. Partner with a reputable, Christ-centered agency.

An adoption agency can be an invaluable resource as you consider the possibility of adoption as well as the type of adoption that would be healthy for your family. The number one reason that couples give for not pursuing adoption is unresolved questions and fear of the unknown. A healthy adoption agency will be willing to help you by taking the time to answer your questions and address your fears.

Look for an agency with a long track record of ethical behavior that will come alongside your family to support you before, during, and after your adoption. Ask how the agency will prepare you for the adoption and how it cares for both birth families and adoptive families. Most importantly, seek out an agency that is committed to Christ and will share your family’s worldview and offer spiritual support.

The need is great. Far too many children stand in need of the love, safety, and permanence of an adoptive family. It is a tangible way for Christians to put the heart of God on display, for Go is a “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows,” and “he settles the solitary in a home” (Psa. 68:5-6a). I pray these thoughts will help you consider whether God is leading you to adopt and how best to begin this journey.

To learn more about caring for orphans and adoption, visit Lifeline Children’s Services.

This article originally appeared here.

From the tiniest unborn life to the elderly at the end of life, from immigrants and refugees to those trafficked against their will, all life matters to God. Join the ERLC in Washington, D.C. on January 17-18, 2019, for Evangelicals for Life, one of the largest gatherings of pro-life Christians in the country. Speakers include Russell Moore, J.D. Greear, Steven Curtis Chapman, Keith and Kristyn Getty, and more. Register now to join us!

Rick Morton

Rick Morton is the vice president of engagement at Lifeline Children’s Services.  Morton is the co-author of Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care and the author of KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology.  He and his wife, Denise, have been married for over 30 years and have … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24