Monday, May 07, 2012

Saddleback Church Orphan Summit: Five Reasons Why Rick Warren and Kay Warren Got it Wrong on Adoption and Orphan Care

Rick Warren and Kay Warren both spoke on the second day of the Eighth Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit (May 4, 2012), held at Saddleback Church.  
They got so much wrong---left out so much that is critically important---that a response is necessary. 
I intend this response to be respectful---from one Christian to another.  The response is public because their stance, statements, and activism, both on May 4th and previously, are public, and go out to extremely large numbers of people.   I invite a response and discussion, whether from them, anyone else at Saddleback Church, or indeed anyone at all!
Before I get to the five reasons they got it wrong, two observations based on listening to the conference via the official web stream:

1. For Saddleback Church, Orphan Care Means Adoption:   Kay Warren made this very clear:   their goal is for every one of the purported 163 millions orphans in the world to be placed in a permanent family through adoption.   Rick Warren, in response to Kay Warren’s passionately pro-adoption speech, summarized it something like this:  “When we say orphan care, It’s adoption first, second, and last.”

2. The Summit’s Focus on the U.S. Foster Care System is Positive; the Summit’s Treatment of a Global Orphan Crisis and International Adoption is so Distorted as to be Harmful
The Orphan Summit gave significant attention to the 400,000 plus children in the United States foster care system, and especially focused on the 100,000 plus such children eligible for adoption.  The Summit promoted the need for foster and adoptive families for these children.   The Summit also promoted Safe Families for Children, a church based approach that attempts to provide temporary families for children in the hopes that the original family ultimately can be preserved.    Safe Families for Children thus includes an aim of ministering to the entire family and seeking to restore and preserve the original family.    (The only reference to family preservation efforts I heard at the Summit was the discussion of the Safe Families for Children program.)    In addition, the Orphan Summit provided useful information on the special needs of traumatized children and how to parent and assist them, which would provide critically important context for those who parent children in/from the foster care system.   Finally, the Summit emphasized the need of the entire church to minister to families who take on the care of traumatized children.   

From my perspective, these emphases on the United States foster care system are positive.  If the current Christian adoption movement was restricted to reaching out to children and families in the U.S. foster care system, or creating alternative interventions to that system, I would most likely be a fan rather than a critic,  I can embrace the practical goal of providing excellent  and safe family-based care for children removed from their families due to neglect or abuse of the movement, even if I still have reservation about the movement sometimes downplaying certain difficult issues.    In addition, my impression is that the theological innovations to which I object come primarily from those in the movement who have been focused on international adoption.   

Unfortunately, Rick and Kay Warren, and indeed the entire Summit, were very much focused on international adoption.  The constant refrain of the Warrens, and many other speakers, were the purported 163 million orphans in the world.   It was in the context of this “global orphan crisis” that Rick and Kay Warren set forth the goal of placing all of these 163 million orphans into families through adoption.   Indeed, it was stated that the math was “easy,” given an estimated 2.4 billion Christians in the world:  more than enough Christians to adopt all 163 million orphans.  Rick Warren stated that Saddleback Church had set and surpassed a goal of 1000 adoptions by Saddleback Church members, and the goal specified that half would be international adoptions.  The pre-Summit “intensive” on the “Global Orphan Care Revival and the Korean Church” was focused on using the missionary reach of the Korean Church to promote adoption both in Korea and globally.    It is in the context of the movement’s focus on international adoption, as reflected by the Summit and by Saddleback Church, that the movement is doing more harm than good, and leading the church in the wrong direction.   And it has generally been those emphasizing an global orphan care crisis and international adoption, and/or whose experiences come from international adoption, who have been most active in creating innovative  Biblical interpretation and theology I view as erroneous and unbalanced. 


1. The figure of 163 million orphans in the world is entirely misleading in relationship to adoption, as 90% live with a parent, and many of the rest live with extended family.
The international adoption movement in the United States, secular and religious, has repeatedly used statistics claiming well over 100 million orphans globally.  For example, at the Joint Council on International Children Services (JCICS) annual Symposium in April, an adoption agency ad in the program referred to reaching “the 132.2 million orphans worldwide who are in need of permanent homes.”    Similarly, the Saddleback Church orphan has publicized varying numbers of orphans, in the range of 143 million to 168 million, with a range of 163 million to 168 million repeatedly provided at the Saddleback Orphan Summit.

The international adoption movement, secular and religious, has repeatedly indicated that the estimated 132 million to 168 million “orphans” are children lacking a family and hence in need of adoption.   This was done at JCICS in April and at the Saddleback Orphan Summit in May.  

This is total bunk.   These global orphan estimates comes from UNICEF, which is using a broad concept of “orphans and vulnerable children” which includes children who have lost one parent but are living with their other parent.   90% of these “orphans” are living with a parent, and thus certainly are not in need of a family through adoption, for they already have a family.    Of course some of these 90% of orphans and vulnerable children may be in families that could use assistance of one kind or another to alleviate poverty or other vulnerabilities; taking away the children of the poor however, is neither a Christian nor a humane intervention. 

2. The Movement Ignores and is Naïve Concerning Abusive Adoption Practices in Intercountry Adoption, and Thus Promotes the Involvement of Christians in Child Trafficking and Other Abusive Practices

Incredibly, at the Saddleback Orphan Summit, and in the broader movement, there is virtually no discussion of the child trafficking that has permeated international adoptions from many nations, including Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Samoa, and Vietnam.   There is virtually no discussion of the fact that intercountry adoptions to the United States are in severe decline, from a high of almost 23,000 in 2004 to 9300 in 2011---in large part due to child trafficking and other abusive adoption practices.  There is little or no discussion of the pattern by which new nations are opened up to international adoption, the numbers rise, and then corruption and abusive practices overwhelm the system, leading to moratoria, slowdowns, and closures.   In the rare instances where abusive practices are discussed, it is to provide false assurances that such could be avoided by following governmental rules or using good/Christian agencies.

The end result of this kind of extreme naivety about the current state of intercountry adoption is to send Christians into adopting internationally like lambs to the slaughter, unaware of the dangers they face.    Christians are adopting children with falsified paperwork who are not true orphans, in Ethiopia and elsewhere, and therefore unwittingly participating in child trafficking.  

For documentation of these difficulties, see my various articles on Child Laundering, Child Trafficking, and Abusive Adoption Practices, which themselves provide many other sources:

Or view the following documentaries on Christians adopting from Ethiopia using a Christian agency:

3. The Movement Relies on the Wrong Experts on Intercountry Adoption, and Therefore Promotes False Assurances and False Information

Ambassador Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, United States Department of State, was the primary expert on international adoption presented at a Plenary Session of the Saddleback Orphan Summit.   Incredibly, Ambassador Jacobs claimed that in a Hague country we have never had a problem with fraud or misrepresentation.    I will give two counter-examples for this patently false statement, although many more could be provided:

a.  India ratified the Hague Convention in 2003, but the notorious scandals associated with Preet Mandir, one of the most popular orphanages in all of India for international adoption, dragged on for many years thereafter.     See, e.g., Arun Dohle, Inside Story of an Adoption Scandal, Cumberland Law Review, available at: .

b. China ratified the Hague Convention in 2005, but significant reports of abusive practices continue.  See, for example:    

Of course, even if adoptions from Hague nations were all free of abusive practices, it would not solve the problem of abusive practices, since the majority of the adoptions to the United States are not from Hague countries, and some of the most popular countries from which to adopt (such as Ethiopia) are not Hague countries.  And of course Christians influenced by the movement have been particularly active in adopting from non-Hague countries, such as Ethiopia.    

Susan Jacobs is typical of proponents of international adoption who repeatedly minimize the extent and significance of abuse practices, and thereby keep the system from correcting itself.   The result is the decline in intercountry adoption, and a constantly expanding pool of victims from a system shot-through with abusive practices.  While relying on this kind of expertise may make the movement feel well connected, it is deceptive.  These kinds of experts will flatter and reassure the Christian adoption movement, and in turn the Christian adoption movement will flatter them with attention and praise.  I would suggest the movement expand and diversify their pool of experts to those who will challenge them with difficult truths; write to me and I can give you quite a list!

4. The Biblical Interpretation and Theology of Adoption Put Forward by Rick Warren and the Broader Movement are completely erroneous

If you actually read the Bible for what it says, rather than the meanings we put into it, it is apparent that the Bible neither portrays  the people of God adopting unrelated orphan children, nor recommends that the people of God do so.   It just isn’t there, in either the Old or New Testaments!   Nor are the kinds of adoption practiced in the United States (closed-record “as if” adoption that pretends that the child was born to the adoptive parents and that the child never had and never will have a relationship to their original family), compatible with the Bible.  The Bible, instead, assumes that the original identity and biological lineage of the individual remain as important and true facts.  

Of course the Bible teaches that we are to provide for all kinds of vulnerable persons, including widows and the fatherless (orphans), the poor, the stranger, etc.   And yes, there are five mentions of a word that can be translated “adoption” in the Pauline corpus----although there are no uses of the word adoption in the rest of the New Testament.   But none of this adds up to anything like what the movement claims.  In fact, the only way to have a Biblical “orphan care” movement would be have a “widow and orphan” movement---in the context of a poverty alleviation movement---because in the Bible and in the contemporary world, the vast majority of so-called “orphans” are living with a parent or extended family, and the Biblical call is to assist the "orphan" and other family members in staying together.    Thus, the interventions for the “widow and orphan” which are portrayed in the Bible are those which help the widow and the orphan to remain together.   Yet, you almost never hear about family preservation programs or widow alleviation programs at the movement’s events or in their literature.    The net result is that the movement exploits the very people it claims to assist.  Taking the children of the poor and the vulnerable for adoption is neither a Biblical nor a humane practice.    And even in the circumstances where some kind of adoption would be appropriate, the movement fails to apply Biblical understandings of what adoption is and should look like. 

For a fuller explication of the Biblical issues, you can read my article, found here:

An abstracted and full version of the article, plus rebuttals by two Christian adoption movement leaders (Jedd Medefind and Dan Cruver) will be out within a month; see the web site of the Journal of Christian Legal Thought or this blog for updates!

5. In the Longer Term, it is a Reality-Check That Will Demonstrate that Rick and Kay Warren, and the Christian Adoption Movement, Are Wrong about Adoption.

Rick Warren is a marketing genius who has reached tens of millions of people with his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.     The adoption and orphan care movement has within a few years succeeded in permeating the American church with their message.   If you compare their combined reach with that of the Christian critics of the movement, it would seem that we are hopelessly outmatched.    But none of that will matter in the longer term:  it is reality that will continue to bite back at the Christian adoption movement, and it is reality that will continue to prove the critics right and the Christian adoption movement wrong.   In this way, it will happen for the Christian adoption movement just as it has been happening for the broader international adoption movement.  For years the international adoption movement ignored their hopelessly outmatched critics, only to be constantly brought down by reality:  scandal after scandal, closed countries, steeply declining numbers.    At some point, rhetoric gives way to reality.

Already the gap between the grandiose rhetoric of the Christian adoption movement, and the realities surrounding international adoption, invite a reality-check.   It is almost comic to listen to this grandiose talk of adopting 163 million children, in a time when international adoptions to the United States have declined to 9300 in 2011---and international adoptions globally to perhaps 25,000.  It is a kind of absurd theatre to listen to the movement’s rhetoric of adopting 163 million “orphans,” when over 90% of those purported orphans are children living with their biological family.  This is a movement that can’t even bring home 9300 children for international adoption, without wrongfully participating in child trafficking, visa fraud, and production of falsified documents---and they are going to save 163 million?

I agree with Rick Warren that the church has a mission in regard to church planting, poverty alleviation, education, and medical care/healing.   I agree that the church’s mission includes special actions on behalf of the widow and the orphan, the poor, and the stranger.  I just pray that this tragic/comic international adoption detour will not undermine these fundamental tasks of the church. 

The reality-check will come sooner or later---I pray it will be sooner, before there are too many more victims of this zealous but misdirected movement. 



  1. I was wondering if they only talked about the special care needed for traumatized children adopted through US foster care? Far too many international AP's are not prepared to parent the inherent loss that many adoptees feel. Unfortunately, agencies and social workers paint the picture of unicorns & rainbows to PAPs. As an adult adoptee and an adoptive parent, I know that is not the truth. The one thing that makes me battier than hearing what Rick Warren had to say is hearing these parents talk about "rehoming" or "disruption" when the going gets tough. So much for saving and orphan and providing a "forever family".

    1. Thanks for your comment! The sessions on traumatized children, attachment, etc., were breakout sessions by a specialist, who from I could see probably knows what she is talking about---and who also implicitly rejected much of the bad parenting advice that floats around the Christian adoption world. Refreshing. It was Karyn Purvis, and her materials on the "connected child" sound like what has been called elsewhere "Attachment Parenting"---except adapted to traumatized children, and supported by brain science research. It would be applicable to both abused/neglected foster care children in the U.S., and also to what is called the "post-institutionalized child,"---i.e., children who come from low quality institutional care, particularly when they were infants/toddlers, as has been common in Eastern Europe. The issues you raise are somewhat different: the core adoption issue of loss, as you obviously know well and state, applies to all adoptees. Unfortunately, I didn't hear much at the conference that could constitute a serious introduction to the core adoption issues of loss, identity, etc. Of course I wasn't there---I was watching it through the web streaming---so couldn't see most of the breakout sessions. Generally speaking, though, I think one problem with the movement is that too many of the leaders are adoptive parents of still young adopted persons, who are still often naive about how adoptees feel as they grow up. However, since a part of the movement focuses on the foster care system, and some have adopted post-institutionalized children internationally, and since these difficulties are immediately apparent as soon as you start parenting or fostering the child, they have more materials on those problems. This, anyway, is my interpretation. (One more thought....I find the "forever family" rhetoric very ironic for a different reason....when you build the adoptive family on destroying all links to the past, it is not a firm foundation....if any family should be "forever" it is the one built into our genes and the ties which were forever made in the womb...)

  2. the problems with the warren's interpertation are: 1) he overlooks the potential damage any adoption can do, whether domestic or adoption, 2) his focus is solely on orphans, not widows AND orphans and 3) when flirting with adoption, the likelihood of corruption by the world is very high, as has been repeatedly documented.

    from where i am sitting, the problem rick warren has is that the bible he claims to take literally commands him to care for widows and orphans in their distress, which means providing food, shelter, clothing, jobs, health care to the dyad. i barely need to point out the huge conflict this biblical command has with republican ideology.

  3. When Rick and Kay practice what they preach and actually adopt several children, I will listen to them. You are correct at a certain point reality will hit these people in the face. Until then they will have important summits, make videos, and help the adoption movement leaders make thousands of dollars.

    1. With the amount of travel the Warrens do it would be unethical for them to adopt. They do far more for orphans by using their enormous pulpit to advocate on behalf of orphans.

  4. Thanks so much for responding to the summit. As a fellow Christian and adoptee, it is wonderful to read.

    1. Thanks! Just read your prior blog on born of or adopted by God, which was great!! The church needs to hear from more people from within who can challenge the obvious defects in the adoption movement's theology. Please do more on this! And please comment on your blog when the Journal of Christian Legal Thought adoption issue comes out---hopefully in less than a month.

  5. Thank you for posting this. I am a half-orphan who was relinquished by my natural father after the death of my mother. No one stepped up to help him keep his family together. Instead, he was encouraged to believe that the only course of action was to give me up to a closed adoption with a childless couple. The adoption was arranged, my birth certificate sealed, and a false one issued to replace it. Without knowing, I lived six miles away from my natural family, who found me when I was 18. This is a terrible way to live, to be adopted, forced out of the life I was born into. And these were Catholics. No, Rick Warren is misguided. He's spreading misinformation and promoting adoption witthout knowing the facts. Thank you for clarifying the orphan situation worldwide for us.

  6. David - do you have a link to a post that you've written with suggestions for how to navigate this issue as an adoptive parent? It seems a bit overwhelming. To stop adoptions altogether until the system is "fixed" seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water (no pun intended). Since there are legitimate orphans out there who are in desperate need of a family, how do we walk through this adoption minefield, specifically, in a "wise as serpents, innocent as doves" manner? Thank you for your time and sharing your passion about this issue.

    1. Kim----this is a great question. In some ways it illustrates how broken the international adoption system is----it is too bad that we can't rely on even the "good" agencies to guide us but the truth is that we usually can't. We learned that the hard way. We definitely believe, with you, that the "wise as serpents, innocent as doves" scripture should be applied to adoption. I hope to do a blog post on your question before too long, but my initial thought is that so much depends on why one is adopting and what kinds of children one is, in prudence, prepared to handle. There definitely are children from the U.S. foster care system truly in need of families--- with over 100,000 freed for adoption---but of course these tend to be much older and come with very difficult issues. Not everyone is prepared to handle this kind of child; and those not able to handle it should not do it, in my opinion. On the other hand, for those who simply want a baby to parent due to fertility issues, one has to be clear on what the motivations really are---and the reality that there are too many people who want a healthy baby, and not very many babies at all legitimately available for adoption. The next step is to realize that the vast majority of "legitimate orphans out there who are in desperate need of a family"---as you put it---are much more like the children in the U.S. foster care system, than like the healthy, normal babies so many want to adopt. Anyway, these are just some starting thoughts in response to your question....

    2. Thanks for responding and I look forward to that post (this is still Kim from above, just changed my blogger name). My husband and I are currently adopting from foster care. Our preference is older children in large sibling groups but I still struggle with how some of these kids came into care in the first place and maybe shouldn't have but it's too late to undo the damage or TPRs. The entire adoption industry is very broken.

  7. If you must use the word adopt, the command would be to adopt a fatherless family, not adopt an orphan.

    The way we practice adoption in Western civilization is a lot more about ownership, and a lot less about true religion.

  8. Great summary David. I wanted to watch the livestream but couldn't due to many factors over here in Uganda. I agree, the truth isn't being told and I believe so many Christians are being horribly misguided. From being on the ground here in Uganda and working within this field we see and hear daily horrendous stories to do with international adoption. The adopters are either very naive or are choosing to turn a blind eye and justify certain behaviours as "cultural", "thats just the way they do things here" etc. Most we find don't want to hear the truth and think you are anti internatioanl adoption when you talk about ethics and doing all you can to resettle and support the birth family to have their child back. Its quite incredible. The enemy comes to kill, seek and destroy and that is wha I believe he is doing. I believe in all my heart now,that the spirit that is fueling this movement certainly isn't the Holy spirit. It's a shame, but I am still hoping that what the devil has meant for bad, God can use for good. Thanks for speaking out against injustice and pursing and sharing truth.

    1. Thanks for your comments. We hope people will listen to you as you describe your experiences in Uganda, and that you both will continue to be active in sharing your experiences, even if sometimes it seems that few are listening. I would encourage you to be very specific in detailing the "horrendous stories" you are seeing regarding international adoption in Uganda.

  9. I believe Rick Warren could have a great impact on the church,by funding keeping families together and not tearing them apart for the sake of the growth of the church. I fear when I see this number of orphans miscalculated what is actually going on is stealing children from their families and their own religions and heritage to be raised as Christians and therefore adding to God's kingdom this way. This is not biblical. His efforts would be better served helping these impoverished nations. How many programs has he started or developed to help those impoverished nations? The money spent on each adoption would make a huge impact on the families lives overseas and be able to keep families together and lift them out of poverty all together. If you have 30,000 to spend on an adoption, you have 30,000 to give to keep a family together and help them rise out of poverty. I would imagine that 30,000 could help a whole village.
    That is just my feeling. As an adult adoptee and Christian the whole idea just sickens me.

  10. Thank you for capturing the errors in this movement so succinctly. I'd like to hope its leaders will take your words to heart, but they're in it way to deeply to admit their own mistakes, I think.

  11. I blog about older child adoption and linked to this article on my blog today.

    1. Thanks for listing this post on your blog. I was just reading your blog....a nice mix of materials and topics. I particularly appreciated your pastor's wisdom on grief. Like you, we also home-school. This is not the place where we talk about that, but Desiree has some good materials on that as well....

  12. Very good points. I found myself nodding along, even where I didn't want to agree. We are an adoptive family and I am so thankful for my children - yet, we are all too aware of the tragic consequences of their loss. Consequences that we will all deal with for years to come. I certainly did not understand the magnitude of that before we adopted (and I don't mean RAD). I will be sharing this on facebook and hopefully my blog when I can wrap my head around my own thoughts...

  13. Bravo! Very well stated. To help the orphan involves so much more than adoption. Two of my three adopted daughters are special needs - and in reality would be dead had they stayed in their home country. For them, IA was - right now - the only available solution. My third daughter was abandoned at birth - probably because of her gender, but it is as likely that it was because of poverty or other cultural factors. For her - right now - IA was the option, but we need to be working to change those thinks in the world that will help as many children as possible stay with their families. There is one right way - Rick Warren's way - according to many.

    The only criticism I have with your assessment is the reference to the Ethiopian news coverage of the alleged issues with a Christian agency. This was the only news coverage - and a thorough investigation found the agency did nothing illegal nor unethical. It was a US agency - and only the Australian news would cover the issue because there was such unreliable evidence to accuse. I am not saying that a Christian agency is not capable of corruption - only that in the instances cited proved to be poor examples of it.

    1. Karen----Can you cite the "thorough" investigation that "found the agency did nothing illegal nor unethical" in the Ethiopian adoption case cited in my post? I have been in touch with one of the families involved in this Ethiopian case, and reviewed the documents---and also been in touch with U.S. reporters investigating it---and the evidence is very strong regarding the misconduct. Virtually everyone I know with any realism at this point---from U.S. adoption agencies to the U.S. State Department to activists---is at this point quite aware of much misconduct in Ethiopian adoptions---so why do you minimize it? I don't understand why supposed supporters of ICA feel this need to ignore or deny misconduct? It is true that under current rules a U.S. agency can repeatedly place children for adoption to the U.S. where the paperwork is fraudulent and the children are not legally eligible for adoption, and yet the U.S. agency can say that it has done nothing illegal or unethical---and get away with it. But that is a condemnation of the system, not a defense of it. As to your adoptions----I certainly believe that some adoptions do help children truly in need----but denying and minimizing the wrongdoing only makes it harder to reach the children truly in need of a family. A system that will not admit its problems cannot correct itself; and a system that cannot correct itself will break down. Tearing down adoptive families who report wrongdoing as you implicitly do in your reply only makes it less likely that the system will survive to help the children who are truly in need.

  14. Hi David,
    I have been following your writings for some time, and I truly appreciate what you are doing to raise awareness about the often devastating impact of adoptions, not only on the children, but on the natural and adoptive parents as well. Once big money is added to the mix, the profit-taking child trafficking indu$try takes over. Adoption has life-long consequences that extend into future generations; most people refuse to hear and accept the truth about it. The wounds never heal from being separated from one's natural family, and, in fact, actually intensify as time goes on. Real people of God support family preservation, and in the cases of actual orphans support permanent, legal guardianships. Children do not need to have their names changed, their identities erased, or their adoptive parents listed on an altered birth certificate "as if" they had given birth to the child. There are healthier, safer, more Christian ways to address the issues of poverty here and abroad than promoting adoption as part of God's plan...

  15. I have also been really uncomfortable with Christians using scripture out of context to support their stance - I am not sure if it is simply the biblical illiteracy that is so prevalent in the American church (though that does not excuse the pastors who ought to know better, but maybe they rely on the ignorance of their congregations to push their agenda). I am not sure how I could look into the eyes of my adopted kids and tell them God intended that I be their mother. NO! His first and best plan for their lives would have been for them to be raised by their birth parents in a godly and intact family. I am a far second choice who stepped in because we live in a very fallen world and due to people's free will and the resultant circumstances that led to their becoming orphans, it became necessary that they be adopted.

    I also become a little suspicious when people claim God called them to adopt from a specific country - as though somehow God has a hierarchy of favored status for orphans - young pretty girls preferably from Eastern Europe, China, Korea and if you must go darker - then Ethiopia. Somehow, God seems silent about all the waiting older children in less desirable countries like Ghana or AA newborns in America. I think we all start off with a preference and then make choices and based on those preference and use God to justify our choices so that we don't really have to look too deeply into our own motivations or so that we can seem more righteous in the choices we made. And there is really nothing wrong to have a preference, but I cannot find any theological basis for some of these "callings".

    I think it is hard for most Americans to conceptualize a child being happy in a birth family that is not able to provide all the material possessions we deem a must for a child in America, but that does not really justify a child being taken from a birth family because of poverty simply because they can be offered "so much more" in the America. It is a harder sell to support families to remain intact because of poverty than to support an orphanage or IA.

    I am not sure what the end result will be, but like every new fad in Christianity, this too shall pass. Hopefully soon, without destroying so many families - both at home and abroad.

  16. I firmly agree with you that Christians are making mistakes in international adoption and it's our responsibility to have integrity and follow the highest standards. I was at Orphan Summit and I really liked what Rick and Kay Warren had to say. I think there are some unfair assumptions being made here and I hope I can illuminate and clarify a bit.

    I heard Rick and Kay saying that we need to stop building orphanages and start getting kids into families. Can anyone involved in orphan care seriously disagree with that? That doesn't necessarily mean international adoption is THE solution. The conversation about family-based care is expanding and being implemented in more places.

    Many of the conversations you said should have been happening at Orphan Summit were indeed happening. They just weren't part of the live web-feed. They were in smaller, more focused breakout sessions. Perusing the list of breakout sessions would probably give you some idea of the topics being discussed outside of the large venue topics.

    It should be pointed out that the Christian Alliance for Orphans is a sponsoring organization of the Faith to Action Initiative, which promotes best practices in adoption. Jedd Medefind (president of CAFO) is part of the advisory group. group.

    I agree with you that Ambassador Jacobs statement that there has never been any abuse from a Hague Convention country was laughably false. As much as I might agree with the Hague Convention, that's an enormous difficult thing to assert. There are still abusive adoptions within the United States, how could anyone seriously claim that there hasn't been at least one incident?

    Also, I feel it should be clarified that it wasn't Saddleback Church's Orphan Summit. The summit was put on by the Christian Alliance for Orphans and it was hosted by Saddleback Church. Last year it was in Georgia, next year in Tennessee.

  17. I agree with much of your blog. There are heinous abuses of adoption throughout the U.S. and globally. But as mentioned above, please follow up this blog with suggestions for change. I am sure the Warrens' and other Christians' hearts are in the right place and would be open to learning about and avoiding any hint of corruption in their adoption processes. Additionally, being educated about family reunification would, I'm sure, be welcomed.

    My own church strongly encourages its members to sponsor children through a charity called Chosen Children of Promise. Our pastor went to Zimbabwe personally to see the work they were doing there and to review their books. Rather than take these kids, many of whom are orphans, living with extended family or one parent, out of their villages, they stay there but are fed, clothed and educated through our donations. We do have church members who have adopted both domestically and internationally, including our family.

    To even imply that there are only monetary considerations involved is to be monumentally cynical. Yes, there is trafficking in babies. I am not naive. But there are families who desire children. And as an adoptive parent myself, I can tell you that these children bring more joy, pain, craziness, and fullness to life than anything else. We were capable of having another bio child, but felt that a child whose future was bleak, and possibly might be very short, was more important than blood. We don't regret our decision. And yes, I sure do wish it had been cheaper.

  18. David--I would have to agree with you concerning the adoption of healthy babies...there must be a tremendous amount of fraud going on in that area and I wouldn't ever adopt one of these children for fear that the child was stolen, etc. However, as a parent who has adopted 6 children from foster care (five were older children) and am now in the process of adopting two older children from Eastern Europe who have special needs, I think you are not considering the "whole picture" here. Praise God if you are right and the number of true orphans is WAY less than the 163 million or 137 million or whatever. That is awesome to hear! But to imply that almost all of the children in orphanages have family who visit them is way off. The two boys we are adopting haven't been visited by a relative since they were placed in their orphanages many years ago. They've been raised in a place with only their basic needs being met. They are extremely undernourished, one of the boys went blind in one eye because his crossed eyes weren't taken care of, etc. etc. Is it better to leave these boys in an orphanage, or give them a mother and a father who love them? Are you aware of the statistics for boys who age out of the orphanage system? Drugs, suicide, crime--that's what most of them will face. True, our adopting two children is not even a drop in the bucket, but my husband and I can do what we can. I don't know how all of the countries work but I am pretty familiar with several from EE and they DO NOT make the children available for adoption if they have family members visiting them!!!! In fact, my friend was recently in Ukraine adopting a little boy with Down Syndrome and she became very close with a five-year-old boy who was not available for adoption because his mother comes to the orphanage once every six months so that she won't lose her parental rights. Another little boy we are considering adopting right now is completely immobile and his mother gave him up at birth at the hospital even though doctors told her that he would likely have significant improvement in time. I think you're right that it's extremely important for the church to feed the poor and keep families together and that a child should NEVER be taken from parents who are trying to care for him/her. And I hope that you are spending as much time organizing such efforts as you are at trying to convince people that all types of International Adoption are a bad idea. It's heinous that child trafficking can go on under the guise of adoption--that absolutely breaks my heart. But do you have any first-hand knowledge as to some of the atrocities that go on in some orphanages? I mean complete emotional neglect, near starvation, teenage children who are under 30 pounds due to failure to thrive, etc. And you might think that if we just gave more money to these countries then they would be able to better care for the children in orphanages, but you'd have to deal first with the value they put on life when a human being has mental and physical disabilities. So, like I said before, I think your entire article is right-on if you are speaking only of healthy infants and toddlers, but try to be aware that there are older children who are TRUE orphans and that it is right for the Christian community to do the hard work of taking these children into a family rather than just think they're doing their part by throwing some money into a system when they don't even know if that will do any good. My main problem with the Rick Warren conference is that adopting children with special needs was not more of a point being brought up. But like one of your writers above commented, his heart is in the right place.

  19. David,

    I was not at the Summit you are speaking of, but I have been to others. As a parent who has adopted internationally twice (both older), I appreciate the candor of this post. I have so many things that I would like to tell the Christian community about this subject. I would say that adoption is the worst possible thing you could do to your family unless you were 100% sure that God Himself was leading you into it. It is shameful to see so many Christian leaders guilting people into adoption. Where are these leaders when the adopting families are on the verge of insanity from all the stress and dysfunction?

    It would be great to talk with someone about how to bring balance to the conversation, and how to do so with grace and without causing a schism in the church. I know there are a lot of emotions on both sides of this issue, but I believe that the church is 5 years away from massive blowback which will have resulted from so many families going into adoption blindly. I believe the church has a mandate to care for orphans, but I also believe there is a better way to do it. It just takes a lot more time, thought, and planning that our current model.

  20. When I lived and worked in Indonesia, looking for Oil, I saw lots of impoverished children every day. To do my part I partnered with local believers who set up 12 Orphan Homes in Country with about 200 impoverished children. These homes survive on about 1 USD per day per child. Such is life in Indonesia.

    In these homes the children live with an Indonesian House Family. They are clothed and fed and sent to the Public Schools. Each day they have a well regimented schedule of prayer, breakfast, school, playtime, dinner, chapel and so on. If I were to bring any of them to the states for adoption I would be removing them from everything they have ever known. With these children I believe it is God's will that they remain where they are provided men like me and others continue to sustain their needs. Here is a clip I shot of 27 of the Tsunami Orphans in their rental house where they lived before we were able to build them a proper home where they recently moved into. "Tsunami Orphans"

    You can learn more about Indonesia's Imercy Ministry at this site:

    I work with Orphans in 7 Asian Nations and here is my site: