See also Part I: God, Destiny and Adoption: Were Our Kids Meant to Be Lost?


One of the biggest objections to international adoption that we run into is the allegation (sometimes proven) of corruption in “the adoption system.”  That children have been and are being “exported” like goods.  There are documented cases of bribery of birth moms, kidnapping, and at  the very least, an advantage of the privileged over the poor, vulnerable and under-represented… the convincing of (usually single) mothers that someone else is more capable (even “worthy”) of parenting their children.

It’s not unique to international adoption.  Many of the same issues arise in debates over domestic (particularly infant) adoption as well.  I was reading a very raw an honest post by a first-mom last night that reflects the pain of her loss – and a very definite stance against adoption altogether.

Those objectors are people with stories, so we can’t just dismiss their thoughts and feelings.

As Christians, how do we face the question of whether our children could have been placed with us through unethical means?

I wish I could find a font to emphasize just how seriously we take that question.

Nearly five years ago, Fred and I sent a dossier of paperwork to Guatemala that qualified us to adopt  two children, three years of age and under.  [Why three years and under?  Because his sister’s daughter, our niece, was four, and we didn’t want to displace her as the first-born grandchild in our family.  My siblings didn’t have any other children, but my youngest brother – now our boys’ “Tío Steven” – was six at the time, and we definitely wanted him to be older than any children we adopted.  He’s also Guatemalan-American – and he’s the reason we went “back” to Guatemala for our own adoption: so he and our children would have each other to grow up with and lean on as they process their identities and adoption-related thoughts.] 

A while later, we received a referral of twin two-year-old boys.

There was another referral in between, an infant whose referral we had to surrender in order to adopt our sons.  Words cannot express how seriously we took that choice.  Because it was a choice we were making.

It was also a stake in the ground.  A  place to which we can look back and say, “We knew what we were doing, and this is what we decided.”

The little guy, the infant, was easily picked up by another couple (we made sure of that, confirming it several times later on in our own process – that he had a family coming for him, too).  What we chose?  Was two boys who have another mom besides me who took care of them and then reached a point at which she decided she wanted them to come here with us.

We know why she said she made that choice.  But we haven’t yet met her and talked to her ourselves.

Now is it possible that she approached our attorney during a time at which she was in a vulnerable place, that months or years later she might have made  a different decision?

Absolutely.  Yes, it is.

Her sad face in the one picture we have of her with each of our sons says that their adoption was not a decision made lightly or without sorrow on her part.

There is no way to deny that the privilege we have of living life with our boys was at the cost, to her, of the right to live life with hers.  Because they were hers, first,  after all.  And they still are hers, too, in their hearts – just ask them.

At the same time, is it possible that she reached that place – where parenting two very-mobile boys on her own with very little support seemed like the lesser choice for them that she claimed  to believe it was – and that our file was there waiting, just then?

There is no way to know for sure, right now, which was the case.  We did our best to select an ethical agency and an attorney whose reputation was good.  Is it possible, though, that something slipped by us, and that the boys who are now a part of our family could have remained with their first?

It is.

How do we live with not knowing?  What will we do with that, now that we’re more aware of the issues than we were back then?

Fairly simple, though not always easy on the heart: we will seek the truth.

We belong to a faith and to a Savior who says that even if we have sinned, we can be set free.  That the truth is what it is, and that facing it or not does not change it.  But that if we are willing to risk our reputations – or whatever else it is we think we have – for the sake of transparency, he will take care of the details.

It is humbling but also freeing at the same time.

To the best of our knowledge, we were matched with children who needed a family.  If we’re wrong?  We will face that, too.  We will be honest with our children, we will help them find their first families when they’re ready and if they want to, and we will not avoid knowing about the issues surrounding relinquishment-adoption.

Because it was a choice that we made.

And now we’re chosing to adopt again.  We feel called to it, as many other people of faith say they do.  But we also realize we’re making a choice.

And one of the reasons we chose El Salvador is that there is a painstakingly slow examination of parent files and children’s backgrounds.  (That’s an understatement!)  There is no guarantee that we will ever be chosen as the “best fit” for a child or sibling group – though we hope we are.  But there are children who have lived for years in what was supposed to be “temporary” institutional placements.  Having met a few of them, I know firsthand that they want loving families to belong to.  So the need is there, and we are willing to meet it.  For the rest?  We lean on the faith we have that God cares about these kids and will prompt the hearts of those in control of adoptions there to orchestrate a match between us and them if it’s right.

Is there still the possibility that corruption could creep in and taint this second adoption?

Sure.  Wherever there are people there is the chance that they have been compromised.

But after using our best judgment, we are proceeding because we know there is still a need for families for kids who are waiting today.  We’re happy to give our resources to organizations that are trying to eliminate that need in the future.  But today there are children without families.

And to our consciences, to not make ourselves available to meet that need would be wrong.  Is God still sovereign?  Yes.  If the need can be met without our adopting a single additional child, is that ok with us?  Yes, though I’m not saying it would be easy to accept that we were not chosen.

Certainly we hope to adopt more children, but we also know the issues, and we are committed to being as honest and ethical as we know how to be.

But if something presents itself in our family, indicating that we have been effected by a corrupt system?

We’ll do our best to meet that with transparency.

I don’t honestly know how people do it without faith that God sees and can right any wrongs.  He is our Confidence through all the uncertainty.  The fact that we look at our children as little people who are placed in our care for a finite period of time – for whose care we answer to the God who made them – affects how we are with them every day.

At one level, knowing the issue and facing the evidence of real corruption in adoptions-past and probably those present is enough to halt everything for us.  But then, on the other hand, halting everything is to pull back from those kids who live in hope that they will one day belong to their own mom and dad, kids who readily attach to any friendly visiting adult to their orphan home.

So we keep our file in the pile.  Not ignorant of the negative posibilities, but in faith that the God who works through his people and cares about his children can use us constructively in the lives of those who might become our children as well.