For several days now, I've been thinking about the phenomenon that has swept the nation. They're calling it the "Davion Effect" with thousands of families calling to adopt the boy who asked for a family recently in a church.
"I'll take anyone," Davion said during his plea at the Saint Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida. "Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don't care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be."
My friend, Susan Michelle Tyrell, wrote an excellent piece today (first published here at Live Action News) and beautifully put into words the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head about Davion, the orphan crisis in America, and our response.
To the other 9,999 who expressed interest in adopting Davion Navar Henry Only, the 15-year old orphan who went to church to plead for a family and left without one:
According to ABC News you flooded the phone lines and the email until the adoption agency in charge of Davion’s case was “overwhelmed” and nearly crashed from the traffic. And hundreds of you reportedly said you wanted to get information about adopting other children, so maybe I’m only writing to 9,499 of you.
Remember when the agency said to contact someone in your city because “there are Davions in every city in America.” They weren’t kidding. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services child welfare division, on September 30, 2011, there were an estimated 400,540 children in foster care. The data varies slightly, but 400,000 is a consistent estimate.
Now, of those more than 400,000 children, some are in temporary placements and will be reunited with their family, but 9 percent were in institutions and 6 percent were in group homes. To put that in perspective, that means over 36,000 children would then be in institutions and over 24,000 in group homes. Davion is one of those; his plea is to know a family and not only a group home.
The same is true for many others. The HHS report says of those 400,000, 25 percent had a goal, a hopeful outcome, of adoption.
Those are numbers, numbers you maybe can’t immediately see behind the face of this sweet boy who managed to articulate his need. If you can, remove yourself from the raw data and picture 100,000 (25%) children without stable homes, whether their parents are alive or just incapable of care.
A recent story in USA Today reports that the median age of these children is 8 ½, and the story quotes an adoption director, saying, “Older children in foster care and families who adopted kids need more help.”
Older adoptees will likely have more issues when they come to you. They have problems sometimes after being outside a family situation for a while, or maybe, like Davion, forever. They may have been ripped away from someone they loved or may be dealing with intense issues of attachment to caregivers. These are problems that make a lot of people reticent, scared even. But they are kids, and they need someone to fight for them.
Can you actually picture 100,00 children? Imagine a broad expanse of land. There stands line upon line of children, babies to 17-year-olds. Most of them between 8-9. They want a family. They want the pro-life Bible verses and theology to be true after they were born. They need families. They would likely agree with Davion who says,
I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.
If you can, reach out and get me and love me until I die.
Is there anyone alive who wouldn’t want to know someone loved him or her until death? Many take it for granted, but not foster kids, not orphans. It touches me, as an adult adoptee who knows the desires to have a family. You see, this one is personal, and that’s why I write this not only with statistics that bring the reality home, but with a heart that knows what it’s like to be a child longing for that. The devastating pain is preventable, for Davion and for the other thousands.
When I read that you flooded phones and almost crashed a website with your heart for Davion, it encouraged me that families still exist who might fight for these who are not often the subject of the fight. They need that. They don’t need us to cry over sob stories or argue why it’s too hard to change our lives to love them.
Like Davion who says he will take anyone who will love him until he dies, so will most of these 100,000. Even when the issues are too big for our minds, or seem like too much to handle, that doesn’t invalidate all those Scriptures in the Bible. If we fight for all babies to be born, we have to have a place to put them – a good, healthy, loving, and deeply committed place. Natural parents rarely feel equipped for what’s coming. Parenting is on-the-job training for the willing.
While everyone does not have to adopt, and everyone shouldn’t, a whole lot more probably can than think they can. So to the thousands of you who called the Florida agency, who previously hadn’t even begun the adoption process, if Davion doesn’t come to your home, will you invest in that process for another Davion who hasn’t become famous for wanting a family?
When the publicity dies down and American celebrates the orphan who found a home, will you be behind the scenes still pursuing an orphan who needs a home? What about those 24,000 in group homes who long to know what it’s like to be special, who maybe wonder why they were born only to love in a group setting and then age-out and be sent away on their own? Can we really celebrate like all the orphans are saved when 100,000 of them still need a family?
Within church culture, the concept of “the family of God” is stated as a reality, but without adoption – the very thing on which Christianity is founded in the sense of Jesus giving his life to allow others to be adopted into the family of God – without that, the family of God becomes more like a Christian club. Being pro-life has to mean being pro-adoption – and that’s more than a sentiment. Adoption doesn’t happen because we like the idea or quote a verse about orphans. Adoption happens when people like you, people who found a place in their hearts for Davion, pursue that place for the child who may be yours soon. Adoption happens when you find that pregnant woman and offer to help her and adopt her baby – and care for her as well; that’s family. Adoption happens when family becomes more than flesh and blood even when it doesn’t look like what we imagined, even when our schedule changes, even when our comfort changes. Even when it changes forever.
Regardless of religious values, the reality is that there are children in need. The arguments on theology are irrelevant when you picture that expanse laden with children in need.
“It’s not really cool not to have anybody,” Davion says.
So to you, the 9,999 who don’t end up adopting him, please don’t quit. Please consider keeping that paperwork in motion – or starting it now – and searching your hearts and the foster care system.
Look again at that mass of children on the wide expanse, and now imagine adults walking in. From all sides, they come and take children, one-by-one, or three-by-three, and they walk off, away from the expanse and into a home. You can be a part of that.
Please, ask yourself what opened your heart to Davion. If that was a true desire to love an orphan, don’t let that die out in the aftermath of publicity over one. Be the one for the next one.
There are thousands of Davions out there. They need you.
About the writer: Susan was born in Bethlehem to an unwed mother and rescued by Catholic nuns who took her to an orphanage in Bethlehem, which still helps single moms and rescues babies. Today she's an outspoken advocate for LIFE and speaks and writes about pro-life issues nationwide.