It's a common question in adoption, and a good one.
"Where is the real need in adoption?"
It's a conversation that comes up at least once a week in my work as an adoption consultant. A family is on the front end of their adoption journey and deciding which route to choose: domestic adoption, international adoption, or foster care/fostering to adopt. For some couples, they are deciding which route fits with their preferences or budget. Which makes the most sense for their family.
But for some families, even more than the desire to grow their family through adoption, is the desire to meet a need for a child.
They want to go where the most need is.
It's no secret I work primarily in domestic adoption. Christian Adoption Consultants also serves families in the international adoption process. And foster care is near and dear to my heart (my husband has spent over a dozen years as a social worker in child welfare).
So you want to know what I tell people when they ask where the real need in adoption is?
It's in all of these spaces.
We all know our foster care system is in desperate need of families. Families willing to step in to temporarily care for children while their birth families address issues with the goal of reunification. Or families opening their home to a child who has been in the state's care and now needs a forever family since reunification is no longer possible.
And of course there's a need for families to travel to other countries to adopt internationally. There are children in orphanages across the globe in need of families to provide loving homes.
But a lot of people assume domestic adoption has the least need in the U.S. There is still the false idea that there are families "in line" so to speak, waiting on infants to be born who are available for adoption.
This is the point in the conversation that gets honest and raw and real when families ask where the real need is. So I would love to pretend that instead of you reading this blog from behind a computer screen, we're meeting face to face over coffee. And this is the part where I would lean in close, lower my voice, and tell just how big the need is in domestic adoption.
Can I be honest? In once sense, the old idea that there are plenty of families waiting to be matched is still generally true. But here's where that breaks down quickly: many of those families are also waiting on children with a skin tone that matches theirs and with promises and guarantees of both mother's and baby's health, in addition to a fairly closed adoption.
Please hear me. These are all valid desires and preferences. Every couple has to wrestle with what makes the most sense for their family in the context of their communities.
But this post is about where the real need is in adoption. Not about preferences or desires.
This post is about real, raw needs. Real babies in need of unconditionally loving parents. Expectant mamas who desperately and bravely desire an adoptive family to raise their child. Birth families who want ongoing contact with their child and their child's family in the future to know they are doing well and being loved.
Adoption always starts with brokenness. Always. The perfect design of a family breaks down when a birth mother isn't in a place to parent or a woman who desperately wants to become a mother through biology isn't able to. And often, an expectant mother decides to make an adoption plan because she's in an incredibly hard space; she's in unhealthy relationships, she's been impacted by substance use/abuse, or she's made poor decisions in her life. Although this of course isn't always the case, this kind of brokenness often impacts the beginning of an adoption story.
Most often the families "waiting in line" are the ones who don't want some of these realities to be the beginning of their child's story.
So where is the real need in adoption? For domestic infant adoption in the U.S., it's with the baby girl weaning off morphine. It's with the beautiful brown skinned boy. And it's with the baby whose mama would love pictures and letters to watch them grow up.
A few years ago had you asked me where the biggest need was, I would have told you it's for families to step into adopting children of color. Today, by far, the greatest need is families willing to adopt substance-affected children. Babies who are impacted during the pregnancy with some form of substance ranging from nicotine and prescription drugs to heroin or cocaine.
Truly, the realities of substance-affected pregnancies are a whole other topic. But I can tell you from experience that more often the "what-ifs" are much more scary than the realities of raising these babies. That very often a baby affected by substances has a pretty rocky first few days or months of life and then can be completely on track developmentally in the future. And that a child raised in a substance-affected home (which is very often where a lot of the studies out there have come from) is a much different scenario than a child raised in a substance-free home.
Ultimately, each family needs to lean on Jesus to guide and direct building their families through adoption. You can be assured that with each each kind of adoption available, there is an absolute need.
And this is the point in the conversation, where, if we were face to face, I would put my coffee cup down and look right into your eyes.
In our lives, since the need is everywhere, a better question to ask is: What need is Jesus calling us to meet?
How can we step into adoption without strings attached?
What does it look like for our "yes" to be on the table, unconditionally?
Can we trust God to write our family story even better than we every could?
When we start asking these kinds of questions, God has control. He does the work. And we can rest knowing He will be faithful to create our family, according to his perfect plan.