John Paul II and National Adoption Month!

“Adopting children, regarding and treating them as one’s own children, means recognizing that the relationship between parents and children is not measured only by genetic standards. Procreative love is first and foremost a gift of self. There is a form of ‘procreation’ which occurs through acceptance, concern and devotion. The resulting relationship is so intimate and enduring that it is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection. When this is also juridically protected, as it is in adoption, in a family united by the stable bond of marriage, it assures the child that peaceful atmosphere and that paternal and maternal love which he needs for his full human development.”

John Paul II, Letter to Adoptive Families (Sept 5, 2000)

November is National Adoption Month — and today,  November 15 — is National Adoption Day!! Yipee!!!

Are you looking for ways to celebrate adoption? Click here to go to an article from “Adoptive Families” magazine that offers 30 ways families can celebrate!

For more information about this important resource for adoptive parents, or to subscribe, click here!

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“It is in love that we are made” (National Catholic Register)

I was grieved and not a little aggravated to read this article in the National Catholic Register today. If I hadn’t read it with my own eyes, I would never have imagined that a respected Catholic publication such as NCR would permit such a blatant attack on what is at the heart a truly pro-life issue.

As I’ve often said, adoption is never God’s first choice for a child. He intended children to be raised in the loving embrace of a man and woman joined for life in the sacrament of matrimony. When that bond is broken, yes the child suffers. So do the parents.

And yet, it is not the act of adoption that is the source of the problem. When two people fail to live up to their God-given calling, they make choices that leave permanent scars on their child.  Whether the marks are genetic or caused by living in a toxic environment prior to placement, adoption is often that child’s best chance to find the loving support he or she needs to recover.

As a mother of two children adopted from the foster-care system, I do not share the author’s amazement that the adoptive parents she encountered seemed like “normal” — even kind — individuals. It takes a great deal of heart to accept God’s call to participate in the redemption of a human soul. We make mistakes, as all parents do. But we accept the calling because we have a profound belief in the power of God to transform lives.

My letter to NCR reads in part:

No child is adopted as a “clean slate.” Any number of difficulties — both genetic and environmental, including those that led to the child being “in the system” in the first place — made an indelible mark on that child long before he was adopted.

It is true that adopted children grieve the loss of their birth parents, and that part of our job as adoptive parents is to help them work through their grief. But to blame the act of adoption itself is simply wrongheaded.

Just as two people participate with God in the act of creation when they come together as man and wife to produce a child, so through adoption we have an opportunity to participation in the REDEMPTION of that child. It is not always an easy road, and like all parents we make our share of mistakes.  But there is ample grace as well.

If your life has been touched by adoption, please feel free to add your voice to this important pro-life issue!

Be Not Afraid

Today at CatholicExchange.com, Mark Shea answers the question, “What would you do if your unborn child received a poor diagnosis, such that you knew he or she would not survive for long?”

If you or someone you know is struggling with this issue, you may like to know about a special online ministry to grieving parents called “Be Not Afraid.net.” With compassion and courage, parents of “imperfect” children share their experiences with others, and affirm the reality that every child is a gift from God, no matter how long that child is in our arms.

This is something worth considering for parents who are seriously considering adoption or foster-adoption, but hold back in case something should “go wrong” and the child be returned to the birth parents.  No human relationship — no matter how loving — is guaranteed for life. And yet, if you choose to love, that relationship has lasting effects that will transform both parties for life.

Thanks, Mark, for sharing your wisdom on this!

Same-Sex Parenting: A Preferred Alternative?

“Thirty Days,” a television series on FX, recently ran a program entitled “Same Sex Parenting.” The program was about “Tom and Dennis,” a homosexual couple from my neighborhood who foster-adopted four boys, and “Kati,” a Mormon woman from California who was herself both an adoptee and adoptive parent.

Kati moved into Tom and Dennis’ home for thirty days, while they attempted to persuade her to change her conviction that gay and lesbian couples should not be allowed to foster or adopt children. (She kept referring to this alternately as her “belief” and “opinion.”)

The persuasion took a variety of forms, including …

Dinnertime confrontations: “Are you saying that these kids would be better off in a group home than with us? Are you saying that we’re bad parents?”

Mandatory attendance at gay and lesbian events and support groups, in which participants took turns at using her for target practice for her “prejudices.” (Groups included COLAGE, an Ann Arbor group for children raised in same-sex parent households and CARE, an advocacy group that seeks to have laws passed to protect same-sex couples.)

Forced labor, in which she had to hand out flyers to businesses in the downtown area (the owners had clearly been coached to make barbed comments about “those people” who are treading upon their rights).

A field trip with two social workers from Detroit, who took Katie into a crumbling neighborhood, to see a group home in which one of them had been raised, to demonstrate how much better off children are with ANY family than in a group home.

Is Any Family Better than NO Family?

This last point is usually the argument most groups return to, as it is the most difficult to refute. For a long time I avoided writing on this particular subject for the simple reason that I, too, had SEEN such a group home, and was horrified by the conditions in which the kids were living. Were the children truly better off in a place like this than with a gay couple? And, if so, how?

Watching “30 Days,” the answer became very clear to me. The first clue came when I saw that Katie was put on the hot seat over and over again for her “opinions,” yet at no time did the tables turn. Tom and Dennis were never made to sit down with sociologists or psychologists or theologians who could ask them the hard questions about what they were teaching the children about heterosexual relationships, and how it might affect the future ability of these children to form healthy families. No one suggested that any other considerations (including the developmental needs of the kids) might trump their “right” to have a family. They were never asked to confront anything more persuasive than “I’m sorry, but this is what I think.”

What they want you to presume, of course, is that no such considerations exist. And yet they do exist, and cannot be discounted without doing real and lasting damage to the well-being of children who have already suffered so much. (For more about this, click on this study from the Family Resource Center.)

Here are a few of them:

1. Children adopted by gay and lesbian couples are absorbed into a subculture is intrinsically different from the one in which they originated, and to which they very likely belong.

Many experts in adoption contend that it is highly undesirable to place an African-American child (or a child from any other non-white background) with a Caucasian couple. No matter how loving or well intentioned, the argument goes, the white couple is intrinsically “different” from the child, unable to give that child the tools he or she needs to get along in his particular corner of the world. (Some couples attempt to overcome this by exposing the child to others with similar backgrounds at school, in church, and even on play dates. However, in a very real sense, a white parent can never hope to teach by example what it is to be part of that particular community.)

Similarly, homosexual or lesbian couples cannot teach children by example the skills they will need to grow up and form healthy heterosexual relationships. Because the gay and lesbian community tends to form a distinctive subculture within mainstream society, the pressure to accept the gay lifestyle as “normal” or even desirable could not help but form an indelible impression on the children placed in their care. The tensions (such as those seen on the show) between the two camps cannot help but have a negative effect on the kids.

At one point in the program, one of the men (I think it was Dennis) commented on how the kids hadn’t warmed up to Katie. “I haven’t seen them hug her even once, and they are normally very affectionate kids,” he said. In reality, the children had picked up on the tensions in the house, between their “dads” and this lady who “didn’t want them to be a family.” Children tend to take their cues from their parents … and these two had already branded Katie “the enemy.”

2. Children placed in gay and lesbian homes become unwitting targets, exposed to greater censure and scrutiny by their peers than other adopted and foster children.

In the “30 Days” episode, a young child – six or seven years old – going to his first day at school was admonished by his “dad” to choose whether or not to tell his classmates that he has two dads. Katie was horrified by this. “You’re asking a six year old to make decisions about something he shouldn’t have been exposed to in the first place!”

While her horror is justifiable, the reality is that this kind of decision making about how much information to share, and with whom, is all too common for foster children and adopted children. This is especially true when children are adopted outside their racial or ethnic group; their coloring makes it immediately evident that their natural parents are not raising them. Children pick up on this quickly, and questions such as, “So where are your real parents?” or “How come you don’t live with your real parents?” are all too common.

Responsible parents talk with their children ahead of time, and help them to decide how to respond to these personal questions. Unfortunately, children raised in gay and lesbian households suffer an additional level of scrutiny. Their desire to blend in to their peer group is frustrated each time “both dads” or “both moms” show up for ballgames or other class events, or they are asked to do projects about their families. (Children raised by single parents generally do not have the same difficulties because of the prevalence of divorce.)

Although many schools try to smooth over these differences in the name of “tolerance,” the bottom line is that these children are forced to be a constant reminder of a lifestyle many other parents strongly object to … which only adds to their sense of being “different” or “unlovable,” making them unwitting (and undeserving) targets.

3. Children placed in gay and lesbian homes are not taught how to embrace God’s design for family life.

Children raised in gay or lesbian households don’t get to experience the positive ways men and women complement and complete each other, especially within marriage. Rather, they are subjected to conflicting and contradictory messages in their adoptive homes, no matter how otherwise “loving” and “supportive.” For these children, the “theology of the body” is all but lost, and their inherent dignity is further obscured.

So … Back to the Orphanage?

Whenever human choices cause them to take steps that are outside the revealed will of God, there are consequences that are very real, and often far-reaching. If Adam and Eve had imagined that a bite of fruit would have sent them so far from the Garden, do you think they would have taken that first bite?

The children currently in the system are not pawns in the war of political activism. Most of them were brought into this world through the ill advised and often sinful actions of their parents, and have scars that are both deep and permanent. There is no denying this. They are growing up in a world that is harsh and by all accounts unloving.

There was a time when whole religious orders were dedicated to caring for such children, forms of which continue to this day. However, no institution – no matter how well organized, or well-intentioned – can take the place of the family. The first Christians had a tremendous influence on the Roman Empire for the simple reason that they tended to the needs of the poor and marginalized, especially its discarded children.

The best thing for ANY child is to be raised by his natural parents — one man, one woman, lovingly united for life in the bonds of holy matrimony. Each time this plan is disrupted, the child is the one who suffers. The question is not “if” the child is going to suffer, but “how much”?

The child who is adopted by another couple will likely grow up wondering about his birth parents.

The child who is raised by a single parent will grow up wondering about the other parent who is no longer a part of his or her life.

The child who is adopted by a single parent grows up with all these questions, plus a few more in the event that single parent marries unwisely. (Two women in my family had children and subsequently married. Both children suffered at the hands of their birth fathers and their mother’s husbands.)

In the short term, placing a child with a gay or lesbian couple may seem like a better choice than leaving him or her in a group home … until you think about the consequences of that choice. As a result, that child is absorbed into a subculture to which he does not belong, forced to accept as normal a lifestyle that is far outside the mainstream. Instead of learning from his parents the tools he needs to understand the beauty of the complementarity of the sexes and the order of natural family life, he is subjected to conflicting and confusing messages that strike at the core of his identity … and his dignity as a human person.

However, until and unless we are prepared to accept responsibility for these lives, and teach them the things they need to know to form healthy relationships and enter into marriage and family life, our protests will fall on deaf ears. Resources are limited. The need is too great.

To the extent – and ONLY to the extent – that we are prepared to respond with tangible help, can we hope to effect real, lasting change. And so, there is only viable response to the social worker who says, “What can I do? Send them to the group home … or with Tom and Steve?”

The answer is the same as the one Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta so often gave. “Give those children to me.”

Have you ever considered foster-adoption?

Today I came across this report from the Dave Thomas Foundation, which promotes foster adoption of the more than 114,000 children in the U.S. who are currently available for adoption.

Highlights of the report include:

* Nearly half (45%) of Americans believe that children who are wards of the state are in the system due to delinquency … When in reality the vast majority are in the system out of no fault of their own, having been abused, abandoned, or neglected.

* Nearly half (46 percent) of all Americans mistakenly believe that foster care adoption is expensive, when in reality adopting from foster care without substantial cost and there is financial support available for adoptive parents after the adoption is finalized.

* The average age of a child available for adoption is 8-1/2 years of age. Each year, close to 25 thousand eighteen-year-olds “age out” without ever having found a family. Many children wait 5 years or more to find a family.

* Two-thirds (67 percent) of those considering adoption are concerned with being sure that the biological parent will not be able to take the child back. In reality, once a child has been legally made available for adoption, birth parents can not claim a child or sue for their return.

For more information about the foster-adoption process or the Dave Thomas Foundation, click here.

Have you ever considered foster-adoption?

Today at “Sunflower Days” I found this post, which describes the harrowing story of an extremely courageous mother who decided to expand her family through foster-adoption. Christopher and Sarah came to us through foster-adoption, but (unlike this family) they were our first and our last placement. It also took three years from the time they entered our home until the adoption was finalized.

It doesn’t always work out that neatly for everyone, as Sharon’s post demonstrates. Although foster-adoption is not as financially risky as some other types of adoption, it can be infinitely more emotionally taxing, as this post will show. Still, I share this post with you to demonstrate that, when you trust God to work out the details, He has a way of making all things beautiful, in its time.

God bless you … and God bless Sharon and her beautiful family!