This article is the result of asking a few believers who adopted children into their families to contribute some thoughts and advice for others who may be considering adoption.
When believers marry, the normal expectation is that they will have children and that these are a blessing from the Lord. Some couples discover that, after a while, they have not or cannot have children naturally. Possibly the comment in the book of Ruth chapter 4 verse 13, regarding Ruth’s conception of Obed, when in her previous marriage there were no children, indicates that in His permissive will, God can choose to withhold conception from some couples while granting it to others, although that may not be appreciated at the time. The withholding of conception should not be taken as a right to go ahead with adoption as a means of gaining a family. Some couples have decided that if the Lord does not give them children they will accept that and live without having a family. The circumstances of one couple was that they had strong links with a home for needy children and when the possibility of childlessness was raised and discussed even before the marriage they decided, before the Lord, that if they were childless then they could see adoption as the Lord’s mind for them. Others have felt at liberty to add more children to their natural family through adoption and again this has been in response to the way they felt the Lord had led them.
Childlessness will no doubt confront such couples with the possibility of the alternatives that are available, the adoption of a child, or children, being one of them. God certainly made provision under the Law of Moses for such children whose natural parents, for various reasons, could not bring them up personally. In our society, if a child is not adopted then he or she is brought up by an institution or in a children’s home, and this has not always proved to be the best for those concerned.
This article is written from the perspective of those who did become adoptive parents and therefore can advise from their experience as to the possible pitfalls and some of the joys and sorrows that can occur when a couple choose to adopt a family.
Considerations before adoption
Apart from the immediate commitments of time and finance that are involved in adoption there are some less obvious matters that need to be very carefully considered before taking this route to having a family.
Firstly, as adoptive parents you will have gone out of your way and survived the arduous processes of becoming the parents to a son or daughter that you have chosen. This can make you susceptible to feeling you have to over compensate for your adopted child and this can result in the danger of ‘spoiling’ them to make up.
Secondly, your adopted child, if not a newborn, may already have been under influences that you cannot change and may well emerge to be at odds with your norms of living, causing immediate frustrations for you as the new parents. These will need to be worked through with much patience.
Thirdly, sooner or later your adopted child will find out that unlike most of their friends their parents are not their ‘natural’ parents. That you are Christians in assembly fellowship and wanting to bring them up in the fear of the Lord, into the bargain, also sets them apart from their peers in a very marked way. That you will want them to attend meetings and be part of the Christian family that they now belong to can create demanding situations, especially if the adopted child is a teenager.
Revealing the ‘adopted’ nature of the family
The children should be told that they are adopted as soon as they are old enough to understand. This avoids the emotional shock of finding out the truth by accident. Many adopted children may be quite proud of the fact that they are adopted. However, as they grow older they may seek to use this fact as an excuse for disobedience. The reason they offer is that as you are not their ‘real’ parents and so they do not have to obey you.
There is also another important reason for this. At one time, once the adoption was legally finalized, there was virtually no possibility of the natural parents contacting their offspring again. Recent legislation has established, in certain adoption agreements, that the natural parent(s) have a right to contact their adopted child and the adopted child to make contact with the natural parent(s). Adoption, therefore, has become more like a long-term fostering arrangement and this is something that needs careful consideration.
The results of such contacts may, sometimes, be unsettling for all concerned. Adoptive parents may have to face being despised and rejected as the Lord Himself was by His own people. Some adoptive parents have, as biological parents also, to bear the burden of disappointment in later life as a result of children going astray. This will not stop them, or their friends and acquaintances, praying earnestly for the children for the rest of their lives whatever course they may take.
Adopted children really do become the children of the adoptive parents and yet there should be an awareness of a strong and natural tendency to expect the ‘new child’ to grow up like them, as natural children might do. If adopted children are not closely related to the adopting family then be prepared that as they grow up they may manifest their own different character traits and their own likes and dislikes, gifts and talents born into their own nature. My advice is to let the child be itself and only as it is cared for should it be guided in the ways of God. The child needs to be itself and only the grace of God can change the heart.
Counting the blessings
So far in this article some of the darker sides to adoption have been emphasized but only to prepare hearts and minds as to some of the problems of adopting a family, but there are many blessings. Many adoptive parents enjoy a real sense of loyalty and love from their adopted children. Many such children have no desire, at least in their early years, to trace their natural parents.
Consideration must be given, however, to the emotional needs of the adopted children. All children and adults need to know ‘who they are’. This information is readily available to those who were not adopted and those who have been adopted need, even in later years, to discover this information, and good may well come as a result. Adopted children may be very happy in the new environment but it must be remembered that they did not ask to be adopted and may even feel the new parents were satisfying their own needs more than theirs. Many such children have a growing desire, as the years go by, to discover whatever they can about their real parents. This should not be seen as an expression of unhappiness and any information you have should never be withheld. There are also practical reasons, as well as emotional ones, to discover one’s parents. For example, the health records and medical conditions of the real parents are important and increasingly so when the adopted children have children of their own. In some cases this information could be vital.
The important issue for those considering adoption as a way of receiving a family is to seek and know the Lord’s guidance in such an important decision and its life-long effects. What a privilege it is to be able to bring up such a family in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. For despite the problems that may arise it is encouraging to see God’s overruling hand in circumstances, which at the time may have been so difficult to accept. That the ‘all things’ of Romans chapter 8 verse 28 still operate is always comforting to know.
A continuing opportunity
The number of children adopted by any one couple will vary depending upon individual circumstances. As time progresses, the children will pass from school into college or the workplace, gaining academic awards and, maybe, distinctions. This becomes a shared joy and one to look forward to. Then, maybe, they will marry and have children and the adoptive parents become ‘adoptive grandparents’. They now watch a further generation of their adopted family taking up their place in the world and of which they are part as an influence for the Lord.
It is with a wonderful sense of fulfilment that adoptive parents attend weddings and celebrations such as graduations and anniversaries and then to be surrounded by the many photographs of such events reminding them of the Lord’s guidance and blessing since choosing to adopt a child. Perhaps the most satisfying of all of these is to have had the opportunity to set out as parents and grandparents the truths of scripture for these generations. There is the increasing indifference and ignorance of God and His word that abounds today. We need to be playing our part in teaching and living the truth of the gospel to those in our family circle. Adoption may well facilitate this.