By far, the most frequent question we get about our adoption is, “Why not domestic adoption?” Why are we spending tens of thousands of dollars to adopt a child half way around the world when there are so many children right here in the United States who need a family?
We have absolutely nothing against adopting domestically. Adoption is a wonderful thing! God Himself sets forth the example of adoption, accepting as children those who are obedient to His word (Galatians 4:5), regardless of gender or nationality. Those who choose to bring a child into their home to love as their own display a beautiful picture of Christ’s family. We 100% support Christians who adopt whether they are adopting through the State, going the private domestic route, or heading overseas.
The oft-quoted statistic is that there are 153 million orphaned children worldwide. This number includes children who have lost either a mother or a father. Of that number, approximately 18 million children have lost both parents, and are considered “double orphans”. That is a LOT of children. Unfortunately, we cannot give a home to every one of these precious little ones. What we can do right now is work on providing a home to one child in need.
When we sat down and began seriously considering the possibility of adoption, one of the things we discussed was how to decide which child to adopt. It was a tough topic. How do you look at that number – 18 million double orphans – and decide which ONE you will bring into your home?
It is, of course, impossible to decide which orphaned child is in most need of a home. Every child is in need of a family! However, the current living conditions and likely future of orphans in each country we looked at had a great deal of influence on our decision to pursue international adoption. Our desire is to give hope to a child who would otherwise grow up without a home, without a family, without necessary medical care, and (most importantly) without spiritual training.
With this in mind, we began researching various countries. Several factors limited our options. First, we were limited by my age. Many countries require both parents to be over the age of 25 before enrolling in a program. Some require both parents to be over 30. I just turned 24 and was barely 23 when we were ready to begin the process.
Second, we were limited because of how many children we have (and intend to have). Many countries only allow you to have one or two children already in the home. I am pregnant with our third blessing.
Third, we were limited by finances. We were convinced (and still are) that the cost of the adoption should not be a deciding factor in our decision. $40,000 is a lot of money, but our Heavenly Father paid a much higher price to adopt us into His family. A child’s life is worth the price. As long as we are doing what God wants and doing it God’s way, He will provide the money in His timing. We weren’t just looking for the cheapest, fastest, easiest option. However, some countries do have a minimum income requirement that we did not meet.
Once we figured out which countries we qualified for (Bulgaria, Uganda, The United States, Ethiopia, Peru, and several others), we took a closer look at the condition of orphans in those countries. Of each country, we asked, “What is life likely to hold for an orphan who is not adopted?”
We were first drawn to Uganda, where orphans who age out of the system at 16 years old are left with few ethical ways of making a living (many girls turn to prostitution in order to survive). In fact, we were in the Uganda program for several months. But at the time, Uganda’s adoption process was very unstable and it was uncertain if we would ever be matched with a child. For this and several other reasons we took a second look at the countries we qualified for and reconsidered our options.
We prayed, sought advice, prayed, researched, and prayed some more. And we kept coming back to Ethiopia, a country very similar to Uganda. In many of the countries we looked at, orphans are at a definite disadvantage, but their basic needs are met. For example, in the U.S., most orphans have access to food, clothing, and medical care. That is not to say that every child will be well cared for, but our country does a decent job of caring for the basic necessities of orphaned children.
· 1 in 8 children die before the age of 1
· 1 in 6 children die before the age of 5
· At least 150,000 children live on the streets (some estimate a much higher number). These children often turn to prostitution and thievery for a living.
· Approximately 5 million children in Ethiopia have lost one or both parents. It is unknown exactly how many of those children are double orphans. Ethiopia has one of the largest populations of orphans in the world.
· 14,000 children are born with HIV each year.
· Around 800,000 children are orphaned by HIV/AIDS each year. The rate of infection is increasing rapidly.
· 46% of the population is under the age of 15.
· The country is struggling to recover from nearly 17 years of civil war (1974-1991) and a widespread famine in the ‘80s. Ethiopia is an extremely poor country and the resources to provide proper care for orphans is limited.
Does this mean that Ethiopian orphans are in greater need of a family than any other orphan? No. But there IS a need for orphans from Ethiopia to be adopted. So why NOT adopt from Ethiopia? Is there a need for children to be adopted from the U.S.? Of course! So, why aren’t we adopting domestically? Because we are currently in the process of adopting from Ethiopia.