For those of you who don't know already, we are planning to do an international adoption (or maybe two!) once William and Elisha are old enough (youngest child must be at least 5 years old).

 I wanted to share with you some of the reasons why, and hopefully encourage you to support international adoption and children's adoption agencies worldwide - or perhaps even convince you to consider adoption yourself!! Around the world, there are more than 140 million orphans and abandoned children live on streets, in foster homes, and in orphanages. They don't know what it truly means to "belong." 

Christians have a clear command to care for orphans, and there are many ways to get involved—praying, giving, mobilizing your church or adopting. Our hope is that you begin to see the face of Christ in each of these children.

It is impossible to adopt a newborn internationally, the youngest infants available are between 8 to 10 months old. Most own lived through horrendous conditions; either with their biological families whose rights hold been terminated, abandonment, or in overcrowded, understaffed, underfunded orphanages. Most children adopted internationally come home with intestinal parasites, lice, scabies and ringworm (to name a few). They carry indistinguishable baggage, if not more, than a child adopted from foster guardianship. 

Many individuals adopt internationally because in their views the conditions in foreign orphanages are a thousand times worse than the conditions within the UK foster care system. There are infants dying everyday in foreign orphanages because they are not being touched or held satisfactorily. Those who think that "desperate poverty" in the UK is the same as desperate poverty present in other countries are woefully uninformed. 

Due to poor conditions, inadequate nutrition and insufficient emotional care, many children are underdeveloped mentally and physically. The older the child and the longer he/she is in the system, the greater the emotional and, often, physical problems become. Disease passed on by the birth mother is frequent. In one orphanage in central Russia, all but one out of a group of 30 children had syphilis. 

Many of these orphans suffer from weakened immune systems and, thus, all manner of illness. Their mental, emotional and physical development often seriously stunted.

To the tragedy of the 17 million people who have lost their lives to AIDS in Africa, add the 12 million orphaned children left behind. Traumatized by the death of parents, stigmatized through association with the disease and often thrown into desperate poverty by the loss of bread-winners, this growing army of orphans -- defined as children who have lost one or both parents -- is straining the traditional extended family and overwhelming national health and education systems in the most severely affected countries. The problem is particularly severe in Zambia, where, according to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the number of orphans topped 1.2 million in 2000 -- 1 in every 4 Zambian children.

India has about three times the American population living in one third of the space. Introduce intense poverty, famine, drought, natural disasters, AIDS, and malaria, and you have a recipe for tragedy and, most significantly, unaccompanied children.

They could have been killed, abandoned, or sold--but they weren't.
In such conditions, it is no surprise that many parents die, leaving their children to a nation unable to take care of them. On the streets, children are disturbingly vulnerable; evil adults will cripple orphaned children in order to use them for begging (remember that terrible scene in Slumdog Millionaire?)

It is also no surprise that children are often abandoned, particularly handicapped children and baby girls (whose dowries will put unbearable financial burdens on their parents). If girls are not abandoned, they might be killed soon after birth or married off at nine years old to a man 30 years older than them. I am not sure which is worse—are you?

Finally, it is extremely ethnocentric and selfish to assume that children in the UK "deserve" homes more than the children in other countries. All children are children and they are entitled to a loving family and a home that isn't an orphanage. The argument that there are children in foster care in the UK waiting for adoption does not compare to the fact that children in orphanages around the world are not experiencing the care that comes from being in a home with a family. 

What difference could you make?

  • Pray - find out what you can about situations for orphans around the world and pray into them. It may be that you decide to focus on a particular country or area. Pray for people running the orphanages, for the prospective parents and families who these children will hopefully be joining, and for the children themselves. 
  • Get involved with SOS and help promote World Orphan Week
  • Get involved with Focus on the Family's charity iCareAboutOrphans
  • Take a holiday where you can really make a difference. Why not volunteer to spend some time working in an orphanage instead of lounging on the beach this year? There are loads of charities who accept volunteer workers for gap years or just for a week or two in the holidays. You can search through various overseas opportunities here.
  • Raise awareness in your church, school or local community. You could put on a fundraiser for a children's charity or give a talk to help people get better informed.
  • Consider giving to the Alliance for Children Foundation. Although adoption is still the best option for these children, sadly, many of them will not be lucky enough to get selected and spend all of their childhood in care. For these children, the foundation seeks social justice and nurturing, as well as access to adequate medication and education.  

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