Adoption and Faith

Dawn offered an interesting post today about her views on the intersection of religion and adoption intersect, and then followed it with the questions: How did your understanding of God impact your feelings around adoption? How did your feelings around adoption impact your understanding of God?

Faith plays an important role in my life, but it's one of those things that I don't post about because it's so intensely personal. I'm also not at all comfortable with the combination of religion and adoption, which leaves little opportunity to post about it here. In my opinion, when these two mix, the focus tends to shift from the needs of the pregnant woman and the child to the experience of the adoptive parents. And it concerns me that faith-based agencies can require prospective adoptive parents to share their religion, a completely unveiled means of bringing the child into whatever fold the agency represents. I've always been uncomfortable with using religion as a reason to adopt - to fulfill a charitable obligation, for example, or to do God's work.

This is not to say that agencies with religious affiliations are inherently unethical. But it is to say that there is a logical tendency for an agency with a religious affiliation to structure its policies according to its religious tenets. And those may support outdated moral attitudes toward first parents and adoptees, and may also favor adoptive parents.

I'm Catholic. This may make some readers shrink back a little, because the image of the Catholic Church is anything but sterling these days. But my Catholicism was molded not in a pious home (ours was more practical than pious) nor in our parish, but rather in the social activism of Georgetown University in the late 60s and early 70s. Richard McSorley, the Berrigan brothers, and Robert Drinan were my religious role models, and their work for social justice and peace have inextricably linked faith and social justice in my mind.

My children are an incredible blessing to my husband and me, but I don't believe their presence in our family was predestined by God. They are with us because we were waiting at the same time a woman in Korea was letting go. And had we picked up the phone a few weeks earlier or later to launch the process, it's very possible that different children would have been placed with us. So when I think of adoption in terms of my faith, I don't think about fate or about the hand of God guiding my children to me. I candidly don't think about God in those terms at all. I think instead about the injustices that led to my children's placements, and my obligation to do something about them.

This has, of course, influenced the way I've spoken to my children about their adoptions. We've talked about the fact that their parents' situations were the result of inequities in the Korean social support system, and that these are the result of man's failures, not God's punishment for anything their parents or other first parents might have done. Moral judgment isn't a part of how I live my faith, and therefore isn't a part of our discussions about adoption.

The words I've actually used have depended on my children's ages. When they were younger, we said simply that at the time they were born their parents were unable to care for a child, and that the country they lived in didn't offer them the help they needed. One of our children has been satisfied with this level of information his entire life, and hasn't asked for more. But the one whose family is intact has wanted to know more about how a country could have abandoned that family so easily, and how it is possible that a family could send one child away when the others remained behind.

This question has been more difficult to address, because it gets beyond Korean attitudes toward single mothers and children born outside of marriage, or the lack of social support. OK, my child says, I understand my family was poor and had to make this decision. But why don't they want to see me? How a family could pick a child to send away and then simply refuse contact is something my child and I both are struggling with. My faith offers no answers to this question. We just continue to hope that we're able to meet one day.

This discussion segues into a post I'm working on about a recent lesson in my daughter's health class lessons - abstinence. She came home with an assignment that had the class build a matrix of positive and negative outcomes of becoming sexually active at a young age. Some of my daughter's responses were quite judgmental - this really surprised me, since we have been so careful to avoid moralizations. I'm struggling a bit with how to approach my daughter about this, because I don't want to put her on the spot about her feelings, but definitely want to know where they're coming from. More on this soon.


Dawn said…
Thanks for posting this! I am very anxious to hear more about your daughter's assignment and your thoughts on her responses. It's just such a huge help to have someone who's further along in this than I am!!
suz said…
Sorry, my link was pukey. I had to delete and repost.

Anyway, great post of yours. Love it. Although I took an entirely different approach to Dawns fine thread. Considering my position in the adoption plane, I dont think it will be too shocking. (
Mommavia said…
When we decided to adopt it was because we wanted a family, but God definately showed us where our child was going to be born. I cannot think of a more perfect child for my family. His personality is very much like my husband's, with a sprinkle of me in makes me wonder everyday what his first parents are like. I hope one day to know and be able to share all the details of our son's life (that is our son as in all 4 of us). God had a part in each of our lives for this adoption to take place.
Etude said…
As an adoptee, I was adopted into a Christian family, and like all little children, we went to church and did all the good things, but it wasn't until I was older and went back to Korea on a Motherland tour when my Faith really came into being. I knew my story, being abandoned at an early age, living in an orphanage,m and I knew my parent's story about them losing their biological girl at age 7, but when I was in my orphanage and seeing the other children and some adults still there, and to think of all that I had and what made me so different from them, well, my head was just ready to explode. I couldn't fathom the Greatness of God. That He had set things in motion, orchestrated all the things both good and bad just for me. I felt so small, so insignificant, yet so proud and important. To this day, It is hard for me to explain in words the feelings, but my Faith was made deeper and it has stayed with me to this day. It affects everything I do.
MomEtc. said…
I was raised Roman Catholic, but I've been Wiccan for the past five years. I'm not sure that my religious beliefs played any role in our decision to adopt. I do believe that it was God(dess) who made me unable to bear children. Because I wanted children though, I took this as a sign to adopt. This has nothing to do with the Wiccan faith though, it's really just part of my own coming to terms with my illness and it's subsequent aftereffects. Never would I tell any child of mine that they were meant to lose their first family.

Now as for how our adoption may have changed my religious beliefs. Hmmm, I don't know that it has, but one thing it has changed is that I've decided to learn about Buddhism, since this may very well have been my daughter's religion had she remained in China. Regardless though, understanding Buddhism is important to understanding Chinese culture. I've always been of the opinion that I want my kids to follow their own religious paths, so I'd like to teach them about different religions and I'll encourage them to do exploring on their own. I'd like them to be familiar with our Roman Catholic background, our Wiccan faith and the Buddhist tradition at the very least.
karen m said…
That's really interesting, especially the part about your daughter's experiences and responses to her sex ed classes.

Because of our family's experiences and beliefs, it's been hard to introduce the concept of god and religion to our daughter. Her birth family is Roman Catholic, but nothing's really been brought up during any of our visits. Wicca feels more familiar and "safe", at the lack of another word, to me right now. If we're pressed to introduce religion, it'll most likely be that one.

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