By / Dec 27

In July, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization1https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/19-1392_6j37.pdf case that reversed the precedents set in landmark abortion cases Roe v. Wade2https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-18 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.3https://www.oyez.org/cases/1991/91-744 The issue of abortion has now been sent back to the states and will be governed at a local level. Some states have passed robust laws that protect the preborn, and sadly, laws in other states offer little to no protection for the little ones in the womb. 

At the time of publication, abortions are restricted or banned in at least 17 states, with a number of states expected to take steps to restrict abortion.4https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/us/abortion-laws-roe-v-wade.html While we are grateful for each and every life saved from abortion, the reality is, there will be even more women and children in need of support than before. For decades, churches, Christians, and faith-based pregnancy resource centers have been on the frontlines of serving women. Pro-life work today is built on the shoulders of the faithful over the years. Yet, the Church must be ready to meet the increased need in this new moment. 

Scriptural Basis for Caring for the Vulnerable

The Bible is clear that those whom God saves are to work out their salvation with good works (Phil. 2:12). Our good works stem from changed hearts that are called to love the Lord with all we have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:34-40). One of the biblical directives Christians are given is to care for the vulnerable and the fatherless. Throughout Scripture, we see numerous instances of God protecting orphans and urging his followers to do the same (James 1:27; Psa. 68:5-6). 

The Word is also clear that every person is made in the image of God, including the preborn (Gen. 1:27; Luke 1:41), which means we are to defend every individual’s right to life. And in addition to protecting vulnerable little ones in the womb, we must also care for their mothers, fathers, and families. That commitment of care should extend well beyond a child’s birth. Two of the ways we can care for children is through adoption and foster care.

Adoption

The Bible tells us that those who trust in Christ are adopted in God’s family as his children. Our spiritual adoption is one of the realities that propels us to love our neighbor and is the foundation for our understanding of earthly adoption (Rom. 8). 

Adoption is good and beautiful, but in a fallen world, it is always born out of loss. 

All parties involved in an adoption experience loss. The birth mother makes an incredibly difficult decision to develop an adoption plan for her child and walks through the loss of not parenting her child, even if it’s in her and her child’s best interest. For an adoptee, even if they were adopted as an infant, their story began with loss, because there was a break in the natural order of the family. And for adoptive parents, there’s typically an extensive financial, emotional, and time commitment to building their family through adoption.

Foster Care

Conversations around adoption and foster care need to make it clear that these two things are separate. Making an adoption plan is not the same thing as a child entering into foster care. There are currently 407,493 children in the U.S. foster care system.5https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cb/afcarsreport28.pdf The goal of foster care is reunification, but approximately one-fourth of children and youth in foster care are eligible for adoption, meaning there’s no chance that they’ll be reunified with their biological family. 

Almost every community across the United States is in desperate need for more families to open up their homes and become foster families. Children enter foster care through no fault of their own. For many of these children, circumstances do not change, and they age out of the foster care system without a family or a support system. While there have been policy changes that focus more on prevention and keeping families (safely) together, one of the greatest needs is for more Christian families to open their hearts and homes to children in foster care.

How Churches Can Engage

The mission of Lifeline Children’s Services is to equip the Body of Christ to manifest the gospel to vulnerable children.6https://lifelinechild.org/ In Psalm 68, David tells us that God sets the lonely in families. We want the children we serve to have forever families, but more than that, we want them to know the truth of the gospel. 

To that end, the programs that Lifeline offers are meant to connect vulnerable children, women, and families to the local church and local body of believers. We want people to receive practical resources and support, but also to hear the good news of the gospel and have access to a community of Christians. Lifeline has a number of programs that local churches can utilize to minister to children and families in their communities. If you are a pastor, ministry leader, or church member who has a desire for your church to engage, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how the Lord has equipped your church to minister to the needs of your community.

How Individuals Can Engage

Each one of us can make a difference in the lives of others. While not all of us are called to adopt or foster, we are all commanded to care for vulnerable children in some capacity (James 1:27). While different seasons of life might mean that engagement changes, we should seek God’s wisdom on how to care for our local communities. 

To love our neighbor, we must first know our neighbor. We must go beyond our screens and social media accounts to the embodied people in our neighborhoods, cities, and communities. We can make a huge difference in the lives of others just by showing up. Presence is deeply powerful. Look someone in the eye, get to know their name, their story, and seek to care for that person holistically. 

Below are a few practical ways to get involved in caring for the vulnerable in a post-Roe world.

Volunteer your time, talent, or treasure: We’re all called to steward our time, talent, and treasure for the good of others and the glory of God. Consider volunteering your time to serve at your local pregnancy resource center or church-based program, or mentor a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy or a youth in foster care. 

If you’re gifted in a particular area, you could use your gifting to serve vulnerable people in your area. For example, if you’re financially savvy, you could volunteer with a program like Heritage Builders that helps older youth in foster care as they reach the age at which they must transition to independent living.7https://lifelinechild.org/heritage-builders/ Heritage Builders provides one-on-one relationships, provides life-readiness training and connects youth to practical resources. Additionally, you can use your treasure to support organizations that are doing gospel-centered work. 

Each one of us has varying levels of resources to invest in the Kingdom of God. May we invest wisely.

Consider providing respite care: Some aren’t called to full-time foster parenting, and others are not in a season that will allow for it. But maybe you could consider providing respite care for children and families. Respite care is short-term care for children that allows families who are experiencing social isolation to have access to a support system in the local church. Providing respite care can look like a few hours one afternoon, a weekend, or a few weeks. Respite care is not intended to be long-term, out-of-home care for vulnerable children.

Support those who are adopting or fostering: Families who adopt or foster need support, care, and encouragement. While these journeys are beautiful and restorative, they can also be difficult and exhausting. You can provide practical support and encouragement to these families. It can be as simple as bringing a meal to them in the midst of a particularly busy season, remembering to regularly check in on them, or learning trauma-informed practices to be better equipped to interact with them and their families. Trauma-informed care recognizes the effects of trauma on a child and helps us understand the paths for recovery from that trauma. You can also support vulnerable children, families, and adoptive and foster families by committing to regularly pray for them.

Adopt or foster: Pray about whether the Lord is calling your family to consider adopting or fostering. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s an increased number of children who need safe, permanent, loving, and gospel-centered families and homes.8https://erlc.com/resource-library/spotlight-articles/children-of-covid-19/ Lifeline provides practical and spiritual guidance in the adoption or foster journey and equips families to successfully step into caring for children. For some, finances might feel like a barrier to adoption, but there are grants and fundraising tools available to families. For example, the mission of the adoption organization Show Hope is to break down barriers that exist between waiting children and loving families.9https://showhope.org/ If the Lord calls you to adopt or foster, he will be faithful to provide what you need on the journey. 

As Christians pray about and follow through with adopting or fostering, it’s vital to understand that we do not participate in this call as rescuers or saviors. Instead, as David Platt reminds us, “It’s important to realize that we adopt not because we are the rescuers. No. We adopt because we are the rescued.”10https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.brookhills.org/app/blog/the-gospel-and-adoption/&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1667237478566583&usg=AOvVaw2vUv33ujAiFo8E9shQatG6

Conclusion

Let us daily be involved in doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). And as we serve, may our light shine before others so that they might see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:16). While we care for vulnerable children, mothers, and families, may we constantly extend hope, healing, and the good news of the gospel. Our good works, coupled with the transformative good news of the gospel, can have an eternal influence on the lives of others.

  • 1
    https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/19-1392_6j37.pdf
  • 2
    https://www.oyez.org/cases/1971/70-18
  • 3
    https://www.oyez.org/cases/1991/91-744
  • 4
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/us/abortion-laws-roe-v-wade.html
  • 5
    https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cb/afcarsreport28.pdf
  • 6
    https://lifelinechild.org/
  • 7
    https://lifelinechild.org/heritage-builders/
  • 8
    https://erlc.com/resource-library/spotlight-articles/children-of-covid-19/
  • 9
    https://showhope.org/
  • 10
    https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.brookhills.org/app/blog/the-gospel-and-adoption/&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1667237478566583&usg=AOvVaw2vUv33ujAiFo8E9shQatG6
By / Nov 30

November is National Adoption Month—a time where we raise awareness for children who are waiting for forever families, and celebrate families who have welcomed children home through adoption. After the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a landmark case that reversed the harmful precedents set in Roe v. Wade, more attention is rightly focused on the welfare of children, post-birth. 

Lifeline Children’s Services’ mission is to equip the Body of Christ to manifest the gospel to vulnerable children. We serve vulnerable children and families through private domestic and international adoption, family restoration, and pregnancy counseling. For over 40 years, Lifeline has sought to care for women by providing them with lifesaving options and practical support.

In this post-Roe world, there will be even more women who need support and resources. To that end, we should be working to support vulnerable children, women, and families. Every woman in this situation needs excellent options counseling, support and care before and after birth, as she is making the best decision for her and her child. While adoption is a beautiful, life-giving option, it is important to understand some of the nuances involved. Below are some commons misconceptions around adoption, as well as some ways to more accurately think through them.

Myth: Adoption and foster care are similar.

Fact: Making an adoption plan for a child is not the same as a child entering foster care. Foster care is an involuntary option in which the state takes custody of the child to investigate allegations of abuse or neglect. When a child enters foster care, the birth parents temporarily lose control. This might lead to a birth mother regaining custody, or it might lead to permanent separation and an adoption. If it leads to adoption, the birth parent does not have control, because parental rights have been terminated.

However, empowering a birth mother means that if she chooses to make an adoption plan for her child, she can be involved in the plan and know that her child has permanence and stability.

Myth: A woman will not have any control in making an adoption plan. 

Fact: When an expectant mother chooses adoption for her child, Lifeline helps her as she chooses a family that will care for the child spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically and who will also honor the birth family. It is important for a birth family and an adoptive family to have access to post-adoption support.

Myth: Adoption is an easy alternative to abortion.

Fact: Adoption is courageous and sacrificial, but it is not the easy way out. It takes thoughtfulness, commitment, and selflessness. While making an adoption plan comes with sadness, loss, and grief, most birth mothers say those tough feelings are paired with great hope, peace, and possibility. They know they have made a responsible, loving decision for their child.

Myth: More families are needed for adoption.   

Fact: For women making an adoption plan for their infant, there are waiting families, who are ready to care for both the child and honor the first family. However, there is a need for more families to become foster families.

Myth: It’s a “failed adoption” if a mother chooses to parent.

Fact: It is not a failure when a mom chooses to parent. Of course, this decision comes with great pain, loss, and grief for a perspective adoptive family. However, it is a part of Lifeline’s ministry for perspective adoptive parents to stand in the gap while these birth mothers make the best decision they can. It isn’t a failure if they were able to love her well during that time while she is deciding. If we want to empower women to make a good decision, and if we believe that parenting is a good decision, then, we shouldn’t call that decision a failure. Prospective adoptive families should be equipped to honor whatever is in that child and birth mother’s best interest.

Language matters!

It is vitally important to be precise and careful with language, because we communicate value and worth through our words. Scripture tells us that every single person is created in the image of God, and has innate dignity, worth and value. (Gen. 1:27; Psa. 139). Below are some helpful language changes to make, so that we’re clear with our language when discussing adoption.

Strive to use person-first language. This practice honors an individual and their inherent dignity before adding a qualifier. For example,

  • Instead of saying, “special needs child,” say “child who has a disability.” 
  • Instead of saying “adopted child,” say “person who was adopted.”

In addition, ​a woman does not give her child up for adoption; she makes an adoption plan. 

  • Instead of saying “a child was given up for adoption,” say “a mother made an adoption plan for her child.

Women who make an adoption plan are not bad mothers. People are unable to parent for a variety of reasons, and making an adoption plan is an incredibly loving decision. Always strive to honor all parties involved in an adoption—birth mothers, adoptive parents and adoptees.

As we seek to care for vulnerable women, children, and families, may we always extend the good news of the gospel while we care for those in our communities who need love and compassion.

By / Aug 16

Adoption is a concept deeply enmeshed in the Christian worldview, and the good news of the gospel is at its center. Christians believe that upon receiving Christ through faith, we are then adopted into the family of God by the Father. One of the outworkings of our being adopted by God is that we are often called to “go and do likewise,” demonstrating the kindness we’ve received from God to children who need a family, both here and abroad. In the United States, “practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt than the general population.” And yet, according to a recently published survey, there is still a great deal of work left to do.

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) recently released what they’ve called “the largest survey ever conducted on adoptive parents.” The survey “provides useful data to [people] interested in adoption,” and it aims to “equip adoption professionals, adoptive families, and prospective adoptive parents with information to help them in their role as part of the larger adoption community”—it is part one of a three-part study called “Profiles in Adoption.” And while there are many findings from the survey we could highlight, we will underscore three takeaways here below. 

Three takeaways from the NCFA survey

In an article summarizing the survey’s findings, the NCFA headlined their impression of the results this way: “Adoption really has changed, a lot.” And, as the report shows, they’re right; over the last 20 years adoption has changed dramatically. Along with those changes (some of which will be reflected below), there are also significant challenges with adoption, like its cost and the length of the adoption process. These challenges make adoption difficult for prospective adoptive parents and difficult on prospective adoptive children. Here are three takeaways from the survey. 

1. Adopting children with special needs.

Children with special needs are often the target of mistreatment even before they leave the womb. In the context of adoption, children with special needs—from those in the foster care system to those in other countries—regularly find themselves awaiting forever families for long periods of time. As of early 2021, there were an estimated “134,000 children with special needs awaiting permanent homes” in the United States, according to the National Adoption Center. And while, domestically, only about 13% of adoptions involve children with special needs, a number that is virtually unchanged since prior to 2010, the percentage of intercountry adoptions of children with special needs has risen exponentially over the last 20 years. “Intercountry special needs adoptions” stood at a mere 7.3% in 2000. In 2020, 61% of intercountry adoptions involved children with special needs (a number that has actually decreased from its high in 2018 of 79%). 

When mothers who are in unplanned pregnancies, carrying a child with special needs, choose to carry that child to term and place him or her for adoption, Christians ought to be among the first who’ll volunteer to give them a permanent home. Let’s pray that the 134,000 children with special needs awaiting homes in this country will soon find loving, forever families. And let’s rejoice that children with special needs from other countries are being given the chance to grow up in permanent homes. 

2. Cost of adoption.

According to the survey, the cost of a private domestic adoption has nearly doubled over the last 20 years, rising from an average of $17,017.96 to $33,141.83 in 2020. Likewise, intercountry adoptions in the same span of time have risen in cost from an average of $22,245.67 to $36,776.21. Unsurprisingly, data shows that because of these prohibitively high costs adoption is a near-unrealistic option for many families that desire to grow their family by adopting children who are awaiting homes. The overwhelming majority of families that secured either a private domestic adoption (72.4%) or an intercountry adoption (62.4%) earn in excess of $75,000-$150,000 annually. “More than half of families adopting privately or internationally viewed the cost of the adoption process as a barrier, even after completing the process.”

If Christians hope to prevail in our work of providing stable, loving homes for children who need them through the process of adoption, then it seems that the financial cost is something that must be addressed. Policy makers should think creatively on ways to address this staggeringly high barrier for families that wish to adopt children in desperate need of homes.

3. Length of the adoption process

On average, the length of time the intercountry adoption process took for survey respondents was a little more than 22 months—almost two years. Other organizations estimate the process takes as long as five years, depending, in large part, on the country the child is being adopted from. As for the process of adopting a child in foster care, the length of time varies based on one’s family structure. The process tends to move quickest for married couples (335 days, on average), followed by single females (373.6 days), unmarried couples (376.3 days), and single men (429.8 days). The process of adoption, whether domestic, intercountry, or from the foster system, is an investment not only of money but of time as well. 

Adoption, the heart of God, and the heart of his people

The motivations for adopting a child are wide-ranging, spanning (on this survey) from infertility to adopting a family member to a religious calling, all of which are good and honorable. For God, his motivation is singular, and clearly stated in the book of Ephesians: he adopts us because he loves us (Eph. 1:5). And “because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5), we ought to be driven to the ministry of adoption by this same love.

As long as children are in need of permanent homes and loving families, the people of God are called to care about adoption no matter the barriers, whether the financial cost or the process length or the challenges we’ll inevitably face in adding to our families. While the NCFA survey equips families with the information they need to determine what part they’ll play in the adoption community, it also reminds us that there’s work yet to be done. As the people of God continue our work in adoption ministry, tools like the NCFA’s Profiles in Adoption study can be just the boon we need. May we use all the resources at our disposal to carry out this ministry that is so near to the heart of our Father.

The NCFA survey is part one of a three-part study called “Profiles in Adoption.” Parts two and three will focus on the “experiences and characteristics of birthmothers” and the “lived experiences of adopted individuals,” respectively, and will be published at a later date.

By / Jun 29

June 24, 2022, was a momentous day in the life of our nation. After almost 50 years, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the two cases that set the precedent for legal abortion in the U.S. Millions of preborn lives have been lost because of these two cases, and now because of Dobbs, lives will be saved. I find it difficult to believe there will be a person alive today who will not be able to recall years from now off every detail about where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt—me included. But, by all accounts, I should not have been alive to celebrate this historic moment. That is, except by the grace of God.

A story of God’s grace 

While loved well at home, my mom often made poor choices when it came to friends or succumbing to temptation. She eventually decided she wanted freedom to do her own thing, her own way, and ran away from home as a teen. She hitchhiked her way to another state and ran into the arms of a man who would lead her into the throes of alcohol and drug abuse. And she would soon discover she was pregnant with me. 

By God’s grace, my grandparents found her after exhausting every source they could, only to find out she was with child. Strung up on drugs, alcohol, and only pennies to her name, my grandparents vowed to do something, which was reflective of who they were. Many years before, my grandparents adopted my mom and her sister from an orphanage. But that wouldn’t be their last adoption.

My grandparents adopted me and brought me back to safety in Texas while still doing whatever they could to help my biological mom, heartbroken over what had become of her. She was merely a shell of her former, happy-go-lucky self. My biological mom eventually cut off all communication and ties with her parents and dove deeper into every drug or drink known to man. 

I, however, by the grace of God, was given a chance––a chance to live, to thrive, and to be raised by godly grandparents. Interestingly, the day I arrived was the day before my grandparents second daughter moved away to college. No chance to enjoy even one day as empty-nesters, they became my parents. “Old as dirt, but young at heart,” they’d say. 

A little over seven years ago, another mom was in a similar situation. She was abusing drugs and alcohol while raising four girls in a traumatic home filled with tragic abuse. But by God’s grace, my wife and I were able to adopt them. We call these four beautiful girls princesses and are able to give them a chance to live, thrive, and be raised in a godly home. 

Keep up the work we’ve been doing 

I believe the Supreme Court decision on June 24, 2022, was by God’s grace. It’s a monumental victory for preborn lives, but it’s not the finish line. Christians should celebrate this decision, yes, but we also need to recognize there is still a lot of work to do. We need to link arms together in order to help every man and woman, preborn baby and those outside of the womb, enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As Christians continue moving forward in a post-Roe world, we need to remember we can’t do everything, but each of us can do something. For our family, that has meant volunteering at or fundraising for crisis pregnancy centers connected to our church and becoming licensed foster parents. My mom (grandmother) became certified to offer respite care, too. 

Many towns or churches have or are partnered with crisis pregnancy centers. Many states have reputable or Christian adoption and foster care agencies. Take the time to reach out to them and see how you can serve them. Some may need volunteers, others may need resources; the agency we used to adopt our girls seeks Christmas gift donations each November and gives them to foster care families in December.

You might not be in a place where you can adopt a child or even serve as a foster parent, but you may have the ability to provide resources or even respite care for those that do. Whatever you do, open your hearts, your pocketbooks, and your homes––there’s some way all of us can respond to the influx of scared, vulnerable mothers and fathers and babies who need care. Above all, let’s commit to pray that the God who intervened to end Roe and Casey would raise up his people to pour ourselves out for the lives and souls of those who desperately need Jesus. 

By / May 3

Adoption is a beautiful picture of the gospel, but in this world, it’s fraught with a mixture of grief and gladness. In addition, particular joys and challenges can enter the picture when a family grows by cross-cultural adoption. In light of this, Brittany Salmon’s new book, It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Navigating the Complexities of Cross-Cultural Adoption, is a welcome encouragement and guide for adoptive families or those who are seeking to support those who have adopted. Below, Salmon answers questions about the unique and practical aspects of cross-cultural adoption. 

Alex Ward: You start your book by saying you have a love/hate relationship with adoption because it’s “joy and suffering and loss and gain and hope and disappointment all in one.” How did your adoption story shape how you see adoption in this way? 

Brittany Salmon: It’s an odd thing for an adoptive parent to say they have a love/hate relationship with adoption, isn’t it? However, it’s true. I love parenting my children. It is such a gift! But I hate that in order for me to get to be their mom, they had to walk through the trauma of being separated from their first families. 

Adoption happens because brokenness exists in our world, and I felt that acutely the first time we were in the hospital meeting our son. I remember the heaviness of watching his first mom say goodbye, and my heart broke into a million pieces as she left the hospital without him in her arms. “It’s just not supposed to be this way,” I cried. I remember the heaviness of rocking him at night, singing to him, knowing that mine wasn’t the voice and the body he was used to hearing those months in utero. And yet, as our family grew and another one seemingly shrank, I learned to hold both joy and sorrow at the same time. Our joy and love for our son didn’t have to erase the sorrow that came along with it; both could coexist together.

AW: Recently, there has been considerable discussion about how much race and culture on the part of prospective adoptive parents should be considered. Bethany Child Services made news when they recommended acknowledging that a purely colorblind approach does a disservice to the child. At the same time, others criticized the move as capitulating to an ideology that sees white parents acting as “saviors.” How should parents think about their own race and culture when adopting transracially and how that may shape or affect a child?

BS: Well first off, I think we all need to acknowledge how complex of an issue this is, and in our current political climate it is easy to make this issue a polarized one. It requires a lot of nuance to fully understand the many complexities of cross-cultural families and the identity development of cross-cultural adoptees. 

However, as we’ve now listened and learned from adult adoptees, we can openly say that in adoption there is no room for a savior mentality or colorblindness. These are two separate ideologies that are indeed harmful to adoption communities. I’m not here to debate that, as the Bible affirms that we have only one savior, and his name is Jesus, and our God is a gloriously creative God who made all mankind in his image. 

So in answering your last question — how should parents think about their own race and culture when adopting? — the great part is that we all come from a culture and ethnicity that we can celebrate! Because every person who walked the Earth was made in the image of God, we can celebrate how each of us uniquely reflects the goodness of a creative God! For example, I’m Hungarian American, and one of the Hungarian dishes I grew up eating is called Turos Csusza. It’s one of my kids favorite dishes, and I tell them about my grandpa who was Hungarian American. One of our sons is half Puerto Rican, so I’ve been doing my best to master a delicious Arroz con Pollo. It’s more than just meals, but we’ve learned that if we’re going to be a multicultural family, we can’t live a monocultural life. And so we make space in our families to embrace all of our unique and God-given cultures. 

AW: How would you encourage parents who adopt transculturally to immerse their children in the culture of their birth? What does that look like practically, and why is it necessary? 

BS: Like I said above, if you’re called to be a crosscultural adoptive family, you’re called to live a multicultural life. And the great thing about this is that we get to choose where we spend our most valuable resource: time. We get to choose where our children attend schools and where our families attend church. We get to choose which sports and extracurricular organizations our families are a part of. We get to choose who we invite over for dinner and who we do life with.

For the multicultural family, I believe you must be intentional about doing life in spaces where your children can build genuine relationships with people who share their same ethnicity. In my book, I break down representation into three specific tiers, but the most important tier is ensuring that your child has racial representation in their real life and everyday community. 

AW: I doubt that when people are thinking through the adoption process, the question of haircuts comes up often. But you devote an entire chapter to the question of hair, beauty, and affirmation. What about these seemingly mundane tasks is part of the larger challenge of transcultural adoption? 

BS: I think one of the things that has stood out the most when talking with and learning from adult adoptees is how ill-equipped some of them felt to care for their hair. Many of them had stories about how they didn’t know how to take care of their hair or skin, or how their parents shamed them when they started exploring beauty practices outside of their parents’ Eurocentric beauty standards. Or worse, they had memories of their parents bemoaning how hard or horrible it was learning how to take care of their hair. 

I devoted an entire chapter to this topic because it is so much more than just hair care; it’s learning how to affirm your child’s beauty and giving them the tools to take care of themselves. Doing this is another way we can honor our children’s ethnic heritages rather than erase them. And from a biblical perspective, taking care of our bodies can be seen as a form of worship. For the adoptee, honoring their culture’s beauty standards can be a part of embracing their God-given racial identity.

AW: In the book you urge potential adoptive parents to consider the cost of adoption, and one literal cost that you bring up is the need for a specialized adoption counselor. Why do you think that counseling may be needed for the entire family, not just the child who experienced trauma? And is the fact that everyone needs counseling a reason to think we aren’t qualified to adopt? Should people have it all together perfectly before starting this process?

BS: Well first off, you should know that I think all parents should consider counseling. Every single person who walks this Earth has suffered and experienced heartache, many have experienced trauma, and I think it’s incredibly wise and healthy to pursue godly counsel. There is a stigma with counseling that it’s only for a certain type of person, and I would argue that it’s for all of us. I’ve used counseling for a number of different seasons in my life, not just the traumatic ones.

However, I do think when you’re walking through trauma or wrestling with past traumas, it’s wise and helpful for everyone involved to seek godly counsel from licensed professionals. And since adoption is birthed from trauma, it can be helpful for the whole family to get the tools they need in various seasons. 

For example, if a child joins a family and they have regular tantrums, issues with food, outbursts, etc., it is not only helpful for parents to receive counseling and learn how to parent in a trauma-informed way, but it’s helpful for the siblings in the home to also have a counselor to walk with them through witnessing angry outbursts they might not be used to. Also, some siblings of adoptees express frustration or the feeling of being left out because their parents’ attention is hyper-focused on helping a child transition into their home. Having a trauma-informed and adoption-informed counselor can be greatly beneficial for the whole family to process the changes needed to welcome a child. 

AW: I think that for most parents, they know that they won’t be perfect. They hope and plan, but seem to know that there are going to be days when they drop the ball. For parents who are honestly just struggling to know what they don’t know when it comes to transracial adoption, I think that fear of doing something wrong is probably even higher. So how did you handle it when you got something wrong?

BS: Every adoptive parent I know has gotten something wrong at some point. So if there was time, I would take every parent wrestling with shame out to coffee and would tell them this: Shame is a dirty liar, and conviction is a tool that God uses to prompt us to change. Which one are you feeling? 

You see, shame can keep us focused on our failures, whereas conviction pushes us toward repentance and change. It pushes us to do better, for our kids’ sake and the glory of God. So we don’t give a lot of time and mental space to shame. Instead, since we know that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we repent of our sins and then we use conviction as a catalyst for righting our wrongs. We’re going to make mistakes as parents. We know that going into parenthood, so we can be free from the fear or shame that Satan might use to paralyze us. And we can rest in the freedom of serving a God who calls us to live lives of repentance. 

AW: Is there anything else you would recommend people do as they are either considering transcultural adoption or are trying to serve those who are? What other resources would be helpful, and what practical steps can our churches and families take?

BS: I love the phrase, “You can’t know what you don’t know.” And I think it applies to this question. One of the greatest things people who are considering cross-cultural adoption or supporting those who are adopting can do is to start their educational journey now. That’s why I wrote one chapter specifically for families and friends supporting adoptive families. If communities and prospective adoptive families start learning and listening well before a child is placed into their home, they will be better equipped to handle some of the hard aspects of adoption that their family and community will experience at some point in their journey. 

As for some practical steps our churches can take? My biggest piece of advice for churches would be if you’re going to encourage your families to step into foster care and adoption, let’s make sure our churches are equipped to serve them! Two great steps would be: (1) to make sure your Sunday school curriculum and resources for children represent and support all the children in your congregation, and (2) consider partnering with local child welfare agencies and have trauma-informed training for your volunteers that work with children. 

By / Mar 24

Chelsea Sobolik welcomes Dr. Rick Morton, the Vice President of Engagement for Lifeline Children’s Services to discuss how the Russian invasion of Ukraine impacts orphans, vulnerable children, and families in the process of adopting. They discuss how the war harms vulnerable children, and ways the church can get involved in caring for vulnerable children. 

Guest Biography

As Vice President of Engagement, Rick Morton shepherds the Lifeline Children’s Services outreach to individual, church, and organizational ministry partners as well as the ministry’s commitment to publishing resources that aid families and churches in discipling orphans and vulnerable children. Holding both the Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Arts degrees in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Rick taught on the faculty of his alma mater as well as the faculties of Bryan College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also served local churches in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He is an accomplished writer and sought after speaker. Most notably, Rick is the co-author of the popular Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-centered Adoption and Orphan Care and the author of KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology. Rick and his lovely wife Denise have been married for over 26 years, and they have 3 children, all of whom joined their family through international adoption from Ukraine. 

Resources from the Conversation

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By / Jan 26

As I listened to one of my favorite Bible teachers speak about the doctrine of adoption, my stomach began to twist with concern. Eventually, I found the words for the unsettled feeling: “This could build a wall between my child and the gospel.” As a mom, it’s my utmost desire for my children to know and love the Lord. When we became an adoptive family, I began to notice the gospel barriers we Christians inadvertently create for adoptees.

Consider this powerful truth of the Christian faith: Spiritually, children of God gain everything and lose nothing when we are adopted into God’s family. And yet, children adopted by earthly parents, though they may experience gain, endure unspeakable losses which often include parents, family, culture, connection, and medical history. They lose, “He has your eyes!” and, “You remind me of your grandmother!” Many lose the ability to blend in with their family and may combat feeling like they are different. Some lose their original name and birth certificate. 

While those adopted into the family of God have the joy of knowing they were chosen at their worst, those adopted into earthly families may worry they were abandoned when they were most vulnerable. (Perhaps these losses give insight into a 2013 study that reported adolescent adoptees have a suicide attempt rate four times higher than their non-adopted counterparts.)

The gospel is overwhelmingly good news for these precious ones, and yet, through the way Christians teach and talk about adoption, we may be building barriers for adoptees to know and love the Lord.

Take care when teaching the doctrine of adoption

The doctrine of adoption is beautiful and stunning: We are enemies made children, forever reconciled to God through the work of Jesus Christ. The doctrine of adoption is always, always good news. But the practice of adoption is fraught. In addition to the losses adoptees face, the adoption industry itself can be a breeding ground for corruption. Because of this, we honor those who have been adopted by earthly parents when we are careful not to sloppily conflate the doctrine with the modern practice. 

Consider the way we use marriage illustrations to enhance our understanding of Christ, the groom, and the church, his bride. We understand that though husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church, the earthly practice of marriage doesn’t offer gospel fullness. We understand the limits of this metaphor, and our teaching reflects it. After all, even the best marriage is simply a glimmer of a greater thing! And on days when marriage feels particularly lacking or difficult, we have the joy of hungering for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. 

Adoption is often not handled with such care in the church. Imagine an adoptee, who longs for his or her birth family, hearing the gospel inextricably and fully linked with the practice of adoption. How does he or she process that natural longing for a birth family? How does he or she cope with the deep loss he or she rightly feels? Will it seem ungrateful or anti-gospel to express longing and loss?

Imagine a birth parent hearing the gospel inextricably and fully linked with the earthly practice of adoption. Will he or she feel erased from the narrative? How will he or she process who the Savior is and who the savior isn’t? What kinds of connections might he or she make and potentially internalize?

Then, think of adoptive parents. Will it feel as if their church has skipped over the loss woven into their families? Will it feel impossible for their church family to meaningfully come alongside them? Or, if they haven’t grappled with their theology, will they feel the pressure to play a savior rather than feel the freedom to cling to the Savior? If their theology is not gloriously enhanced, what kind of additional burdens will they carry themselves and place on their children?

The ones who are living the metaphor experience its limitations, and they may make connections we do not intend because we have not considered the associations. Perhaps you can talk to an adoptee, birth parent, or an adoptive parent in your church and begin a thoughtful conversation about the impact the practice of adoption has had on them and offer support that honors the glorious truth of the doctrine of adoption — we are brothers and sisters in Christ forever.

Take care when talking about adoption

Similarly, when we talk about adoption thoughtlessly, we can create barriers to the gospel if we’re not careful with both our celebration and our storytelling.

When we offer unexamined celebration — about the 6-year-old adopted from overseas, the infant adopted domestically, or the teen given a new last name, for example — without considering the nuance and complexity of such events, we are in danger of distorting the beauty of the gospel. Though our default posture should be to celebrate when a family grows, we should do this with sober-minded wisdom, thoughtful gentleness, and a desire to honor everyone involved. After all, what had to be cut short before this family grew? 

God calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15) But what if we have overlooked mourners? And what if our actions have unintentionally communicated to mourners that they should be rejoicing instead?

In the same way, when we aren’t thoughtful with our storytelling, adoptive parents can be viewed with extra sparkle while birth parents are deleted from the narrative or treated like misunderstood background characters. Understandably, the adoptee in the middle may feel profoundly confused about how to react, worry his or her reactions are not welcomed, and feel overwhelmed or exposed to have his or her story broadcast. 

Instead, we should let adoptees take the lead in the storytelling. If they are young, we should honor them by protecting the details of their story as best we can and by telling them God’s story as often as we can, with humility and compassion.

How can we take care?

Rather than shiny illustrations, we can offer a carefully-told gospel of hope, one that considers the loss and longings an adoptee may experience and seeks to point to the One who is crafting a forever family no one can take, in a home no one can break.

Rather than the unexamined celebration we may have inadvertently offered in the past, we can rejoice with those who rejoice without failing to mourn with those who mourn.

We can embody the gospel to adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive families, offering them eyes that seek to truly see, a heart that carefully considers, a mouth that is slow to speak their stories, and ears that are willing to hear their story as it is, even if it’s uncomfortable.

In a perfect world, a parent would never have to place his or her child for adoption, and a child would never have to wonder what his or her parents look like. As we encounter those involved in an adoption story, may we be tender to the range of emotions they may be experiencing. May the family of faith see and honor them by welcoming their weeping, rejoicing, and questioning. And may we hold out the promise that one day, our Father will wipe away every tear, pain will be no more, and togetherness will be everywhere those in Christ look (Rev. 22). 

By / Nov 18

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve begun a conversation around adoption with, “Adoption is complex.” And to be honest, the further we have progressed in our journey as an adoptive family, I’ve come to realize how much we still must learn. And yet, although I’ve studied and read many books on adoption, I keep coming back to this question: How does Scripture influence the adoption practices within our family?

So today, I want to share three verses I’ve been meditating on that I believe correlate with good adoption practices.

Stay away from “savior” mentality and language

Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

It is no secret that Christians are called to serve their communities, those in the margins, and those without families (specifically orphans and widows). These practices and loving our neighbor are nonnegotiables for the Christian life. However, our service should not center us as the heroes in our stories, nor should our own interests be disguised as “service” to others. Rather, in humility, we value others and their needs above ourselves.

The same can be said for adoptive families. There are many families who are motivated to adopt because of their faith, and yet we should never allow a savior mentality to seep in. Adoptive parents and social workers are not heroes. We are not our children’s saviors. Our world only needs one savior, and his name is Jesus. And so we actively fight against the savior narrative not only in adoption, but in any ministry where we’re serving others. And in adoption, we always remember that the goal is to find a safe and loving family for every child. Adoption doesn’t exist to serve families; it exists to meet the needs of children. 

Embrace a both/and life

Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

One of the most helpful things you can do as an adoptive family is to not sugarcoat or ignore the hard parts of your family’s or child’s story. The truth is, as many have stated, adoption is birthed from brokenness. It simply would not exist without it. So naively saying that “adoption is beautiful” without acknowledging that heartache and trauma that caused it, isn’t looking at the whole picture. 

As believers, we don’t have to sugarcoat the brokenness in our world because we know that sin, heartache, and brokenness exist; this is why our world so desperately needs a Savior. We can make space for the pain and heartache in our stories because we trust and know the One who will one day right every wrong. 

For the adoptive family, this means we must embrace the both/and nature of our families. We grieve with those who grieve, and we rejoice with those who rejoice. Sure, we celebrate that a child, who otherwise wouldn’t, now has a family. But we also grieve the circumstances that led up to their removal from their first families. I regularly grieve for our children’s birth mothers and how they miss out on the daily joys of seeing just how awesome these kids are. At the same time, I am unbelievably grateful that I get to be the one who kisses our kids boo-boo’s and tucks them in bed at night. One truth doesn’t negate or ignore the other. They both exist in every adoptive family, and it’s a tension that shouldn’t be ignored. Instead, we should hold it with great care and reliance on God.

Honor all people in the adoption triad

1 Peter 2:17: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

One way you can ensure that you’re making room for both the hard and good in adoption is to honor and respect all members of the adoption triad. We do this by seeing every person with kingdom eyes. Regardless of how or why our children were removed from their first families, we can honor them by only speaking truthfully and with honor and respect. We love them because God loves them. We pray and believe and hope redemption over them, because we are a people who have tasted and seen the goodness of God.

Another way we honor them is by listening to a wide variety of voices from the adoption triad. This means that regardless of your placement in the adoption triad, you should be respectfully listening to and learning from other members. For adoptive parents, this means we’re learning from both adoptees and first families. And rather than criticizing their perspectives for being different from ours, we welcome their stories as opportunities to look at adoption from a different perspective. 

Like I said above, adoption is complex. And yet, it is one of many ways that God provides families for children. So, we allow his Word to guide us. And for those of us who are called to it, we take the time to learn and grow so we can better love and serve our children for the glory of God. May these verses bless your family this National Adoption Awareness Month. 

By / Nov 17

Many people ask why my husband and I decided to adopt through foster care. While the question is straightforward, the reasons are complex. I could appeal to logic by offering statistics: Did you know that over 400,000 children are currently in foster care, with over 100,000 waiting to be adopted? I could appeal to emotions and tell you how we watched numerous church friends lovingly adopt children from overseas. I could appeal to experience and recount mission trips where we ministered to children in group homes. Or I could share my personal story of living with two different families during my sophomore and senior years in high school, and how these families’ generosity taught me the importance of opening your home to those in need. 

I could also discuss worldview, and how my husband and I wanted to give our kids a Christian worldview that was bigger and more gospel-centered than what our cushy suburban life was offering them. While they were receiving a quality education and a neighborhood where they were free to run and play with their friends, they were also sheltered to the ways in which people struggle and, more importantly, the ways in which God intervenes and rescues them. 

In the end, we knew God was calling us to more than this white-picket-fence-life we were living. There is not one place in the Bible where God calls his people to live in a way that is always safe, predictable, and easy. In fact, it is just the opposite. God asks his people to live lives of sacrifice, courage, surrender, and often of risk. Jesus even stated, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it’” (Luke 9:23-24, NIV). 

We wanted to teach our children that life is more than a picture-perfect, Norman Rockwell painting. Life is more than birthday parties, school sports, and Sunday school. Life itself is a mission field. Life is not neat and tidy; it is frustrating and messy, but we must be willing to dig deep with people. We wanted to teach our children how to authentically live out the gospel, and what better way to do that than through foster care and adoption? Just as God adopted us into his family (Eph. 1:5), we had the opportunity to adopt a child into our family — a child who might not otherwise ever know love, safety, security, or God’s Word.  

Answering God’s call, seeing God’s plan 

I could give you all these reasons why we chose to adopt through foster care. However, in the end, we chose this journey for one simple reason: because God called us. There were days before we were licensed to foster that I was excited and steadfast in our call. But the further along we journeyed in the process and the more classes we took, the more unsure I became. My mind raced with anxious thoughts: What if I am not prepared? How will this impact my kids? What will people think? I already have three kids; how will I manage four kids? 

Then, I read a quote by popular author and Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer that brought me peace and reminded me of God’s call. It read, “Don’t let anyone talk you out of what God is talking you into.” I knew at that moment that I could no longer worry about what other people thought. I was done indulging in my own insecurities. I would not entertain the lying whispers from the enemy anymore. God had called us to this mission, and we would obey.  

After becoming licensed foster parents, we welcomed a 9-week-old baby girl into our home. She was tiny and quiet, and we learned (and are still learning) a lot about trauma and attachment through her. We realized the importance of trauma-informed resources and training to help us love and care for children like her. Of course, we loved her instantly. And though the goal of foster care is always reunification with the biological family, there are times when that isn’t in the best interest of the child. So, we eventually adopted her when she was 19 months old. We thought our family was complete. We had answered God’s call and now had two boys and two girls. A picture-perfect, neat-and-tidy suburban family once again. God, however, was not done writing our story. 

A few months after our daughter’s adoption, we received a call that her baby brother had been born. Would we take him, too? Yes, we would. We fostered our son and adopted him when he was 17 months old. Unlike his sister, he was chunky and chatty — the life of the party. He was the child we never expected and yet the one God knew would make our family complete. Today, our children are ages 5, 7, 12, 14, and 16. Our family is loud, fun, overwhelming, chaotic, joyful, stressful. Every day our house is filled with laughter, fighting, playing, crying, praying, talking, yelling, sharing, and all the things that fill every other home. 

How might you answer the call? 

Over the years, we have heard it all: You’re amazing. You’re incredible. Your kids are so lucky to have you. I could never do what you did. The truth is these words are false. We aren’t heroes, we are human. We have failed more times than we’ve succeeded. We’ve yelled when we should have held. We’ve made mistakes, and we have regrets. We are just two ordinary people who answered God’s call.

I urge you to consider how God might be calling you to step in and help a foster child. When it comes to foster care, we are not all called to do the same thing, but we are all called to do something. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV). Consider the following ways you might get involved in foster care:

  • Become foster care babysitter certified
  • Become respite certified
  • Become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer
  • Donate items (diapers, clothing, backpacks, gift cards) to your local Child Protective Services (CPS) or foster care agency
  • Start a foster care/adoption ministry at your church
  • Become a foster parent
  • Start a Care Community at your church
  • Adopt through foster care
  • Pray for those involved in foster care (foster children, foster parents, biological parents, caseworkers, attorneys, judges)

The most incredible part of our story is that anyone can live it. Anyone can help in some way. As I mentioned before, there are 400,000 children who are currently in the foster care system, with over 100,000 waiting to be adopted. The prophet Isaiah once wrote, “Learn to do good; commit yourselves to seeking justice. Make right for the world’s most vulnerable — the oppressed, the orphaned, the widow” (Isa. 1:17, The Voice). Is there anyone more vulnerable than a child who has been separated from his parents? And is there anything more beautiful than the church stepping up to care for them and their families, in Jesus’ name? 

By / Nov 15

This week, Chelsea Sobolik sits down with Herbie Newell of Lifeline Children’s Services to discuss National Adoption Month, how the church can care for vulnerable children, and how we can be preparing for a post-Roe world.

Guest Biography

Herbie Newell is the President/Executive Director of Lifeline Children’s Services and it’s ministry arms including (un)adopted, Crossings, and Lifeline Village. Herbie holds a Master’s degree in Accounting from Samford University. He joined the Lifeline staff in 2003 as Executive Director. From January 2004 to December 2008, he served as the president of the Alabama Adoption Coalition. Herbie was chosen as a Hague Intercountry Adoption evaluator and team leader by the Council of Accreditation and serves in that capacity currently. Under Herbie’s leadership, Lifeline has increased the international outreach to 23 countries, helped Lifeline attain membership in the ECFA (Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability), and led the creation of foster care ministry. Having witnessed the plight of older orphans on many trips overseas, Herbie’s burden for the fatherless was a catalyst for starting (un)adopted during 2009. He worked with WAKM Companies, LLC, a prominent accounting firm, for many years as an independent auditor before being led to Lifeline.  He and his wife, Ashley, live in Birmingham, Alabama, and are parents to son, Caleb, and daughters Adelynn and Emily.

Resources from the Conversation