Tag archives: adoption

Rob Schwarzwalder: Love. Wisdom. Fun.

by Christopher Marlink

June 12, 2014

Rob Schwarzwalder is the kind of guy you hope to work for when you sign on at an organization like Family Research Council. He’s a man of deep faith and conviction. He’s stubbornly gracious with his interlocutors, often affording to them unrequited courtesy. To his friends, Rob is encouragement personified. Think of the character Faithful in Pilgrim’s Progress, and you’re about there.

I’ve had the pleasure of working for and with Rob at FRC for a number of years now, and he’s someone I’ve come to admire and value as a friend and mentor. Rob has embraced the character of his heavenly father, who has adopted us all into his family (Eph 1:5), by becoming an adoptive father himself.

Rob was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the adoption process, and to share what he’s learned about fatherhood along the way.

 

CM: Rob, for some men, fatherhood catches them off-guard. Not unwelcome, but perhaps unexpected. You had the experience of becoming an adoptive father, which entails a significant process, and a kind of fierce intentionality. Describe your reaction when you got the news you were going to be a father?

RS: We had had a couple of fall-throughs in which the birthmothers who had committed her child to us changed her mind, so I was somewhat guarded.  Actually holding them at the adoption agency and then driving home with them in car seats behind my wife and me was surreal (but joyous!).  My wife had prayed for twins for about 16 years, so of course our hearts were full of praise.

CM: How can family and friends best encourage those couples struggling with infertility and perhaps going through the adoption process?

RS: Don’t give trite, dismissive advise (“Well, you’d probably get pregnant if you’d only relax”) and listen a lot.  Encourage the couple with the fact that Jesus was adopted (his Davidic lineage came through His adoptive father Joseph) and that all Christians are the adopted children of our Father.  So, adopting places you in good company. -J

CM: Do you have a favorite Father’s Day memory?

RS: Going to an Outback Steakhouse and watching my then-two year-olds come close to obliterating our table with grease, sauce, napkins, etc.

CM: How has fatherhood changed you?

RS: It has filled a vast empty place in my soul.  It’s forced me to recognize the depth of my selfishness and also that I have reserves of physical and emotional fortitude that surprised me; and it has made me more fervent in prayer than I otherwise might have been.

CM: What fatherhood/parenting myth would you most like to see suffer an ignominious death?

RS: Two, actually: That you are doomed to repeating your father’s mistakes and that you must always be the source of complete wisdom and even-temperedness – saying, “I don’t know” and apologizing after getting angry count for a lot. That’s not to excuse anger, but to remind that anger is almost unavoidable – the key is to strive against it and, when you fail, take responsibility for it.

CM: What do you and your children enjoy doing together? Favorite pastimes or hobbies?

RS: All kinds of things – hiking, watching movies, church activities, throwing the baseball, wrestling, etc.

CM: If you could give new dads a piece of advice or a bit of wisdom that’s been helpful to you, what would you say?

RS: (1) The best gifts you can give your wife and children are your love for Jesus Christ and your time; (2) everyone who has ever had a child thinks he’s an expert, so take un-asked for advice with a grain of salt; (3) read Christian parenting books with discernment – there is no mechanical template for raising children, only principles that must be applied with wisdom and grace per the needs of the child; and (4) boys need to wrestle and rough-house – accept no substitutes.

Dubious Reporting About International Adoptions

by Rob Schwarzwalder

September 24, 2013

Yesterday, the New York Times ran a piece by a writer named Kathryn Joyce on the supposed exploitation of orphans in the developing world by Christian ministries. The piece is based on her book, The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking and the New Gospel of Adoption.

The Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) has written a gracious but powerful response to Joyce’s claims; it should be read by anyone concerned about the international adoption movement. My friend Jedd Medefind, who leads the CAFO and drafted the response, concludes:

It’s been said that democracy is the worst form of government…except for all the others. The same could be expressed of many other good things, including aspects of the Christian orphan movement. None of its expressions are perfect — whether adoption, foster care, mentoring, family preservation or global orphan care initiatives. And yet, despite many shortcomings of this work, tremendous good is brought daily to millions of children around the globe. Yes, errors and pitfalls will always come with any effort to address deep human need. So we must labor continually to minimize risks and avoid unintended consequences. Yet this realism need not lead to the cynicism that defines The Child Catchers. Nor to the hopelessness or temptation to withdraw from engagement the one might feel after reading it.

This is wonderfully said, and makes the point that whatever errors have been made as Americans, including American Christians, have engaged in international adoption, the overwhelming good being done for little ones without parents (and currently, there are more than 140 million of them) through adoption far outweighs the missteps.

Additionally, it is noteworthy that Kathryn Joyce is closely identified with the pro-abortion movement. She writes for such Left-liberal publications as Mother Jones, The Nation, and “RH Reality Check: Reproductive and Sexual Health and Justice News and Commentary,” one of whose stated goals is “to restore and sustain abortion coverage for low-income women.” “RH Reality Check” exists to advance abortion as a fully justified means of women’s health care and debunk pro-life arguments and initiatives.

Ms. Joyce writes frequently about what she regards as the dangers of Evangelical Protestantism; that’s her right, but let’s be clear about where her biases lay.

Ms. Joyce is not a dispassionate journalist but an advocate for a point of view. Again, advocacy for one’s convictions is perfectly legitimate. What isn’t appropriate is for her and her champions (e.g., the editorial page of The New York Times) not to disclose her allegiance to a movement and point of view inimical to those about whom she is writing.

Adoption—A Beautiful Choice

by Anna Higgins

May 16, 2013

Tomorrow, I will be participating in the Step Forward for Orphans March to bring awareness to the more than 10 million children around the world who live outside a family setting, in an institution, or even on the street. Adoption in the United States is often hindered by delays, bureaucracy, and prohibitive costs. Overseas adoptions are also expensive and filled with seemingly insurmountable barriers. One major benefit for families hoping to adopt is the adoption tax credit. The adoption tax credit “offsets qualified adoption expenses.” Any U.S. taxpayer who adopts an eligible child will qualify for a credit, which is currently a maximum of $12,650.

Another major hurdle for the adoption process is the lack of genuine understanding of adoption in general. In her Washington Post column, “A Mother’s Day Plea to Stop Equating Adoption with Abandonment,” Nina Easton discusses the very serious bias facing birthmothers and the adoption decision in our society. Because adoption is not readily celebrated in our society, birthmothers face misunderstanding and are often stigmatized.Easton reveals some sobering facts about adoption in her discussion. She notes, “Birth mothers in the United States each year number in only the thousands, compared with approximately 1.2 million abortions performed annually… Women bucking the cultural tide generally do not publicize their choice. They are much more willing to admit they have terminated a pregnancy, adoption advocates say, than to say they have placed a live newborn with loving parents.” Easton goes on to say that in order to turn the tide, we must ensure that adoption becomes an “empowering” option for young women in crisis through the knowledge that they are supported and honored by their friends, family and church.

One website, ichooseadoption.org, maintained by the National Council for Adoption, presents a great forum for birthmothers and families to learn more about adoption. The site lays out resources, from contacts with representatives to videos and stories from birthmothers who chose adoption.

In order to provide homes for children who are currently without families and support for women in crisis pregnancy, proponents of the sanctity of life should do all we can to advocate for the beautiful choice of adoption. We need to celebrate adoption and promote policies that make this life-changing and life-affirming option more readily accessible.

The 112-Lb. “Newborn”

by Anna Shafer

February 18, 2013

In case you missed it, the TODAY show recently reported a heartwarming story about a baby photo shoot that went viral. If you’re wondering why infant photos are national news—many people get irked just seeing them fill up their Facebook news feed—it’s because the “baby,” Latrell Higgins, is the 12-year-old adopted son of Kelli Higgins and her husband.

Kelli and her husband already had six children, but chose to adopt Latrell and his sister Chanya after deciding to adopt older children. When Latrell expressed feelings of loss at not having any baby pictures, one of his adopted sisters jokingly suggested that they do an infant photo shoot. Kelli, a professional photographer, took the photos herself. The result is precious and utterly hilarious and speaks of a family that deeply understands love and belonging.

TODAY also reported that, in 2011, over a hundred thousand children were in foster care and awaiting adoption and that the median age of children awaiting adoption is seven. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute, in its Research Synthesis paper Adoption Works Well: a Synthesis of the Literature, has shown adoption to be “life-alteringly beneficial for children.” Though adoption in the first year of life tends to produce the best results for children, “all children will benefit, regardless of their age at placement. Adopted children outperform their non-adopted peers and non-adopted siblings.”

For more on the importance of strong families and belonging, see MARRI’s Mapping America series.

Russia’s Tragic Ban on U.S. Adoptions

by Cathy Ruse

January 15, 2013

On December 28, 2012 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law banning intercountry adoption with the United States.  National Council for Adoption President Chuck Johnson calls the decision tragic.

I have three close friends who braved the lengthy, expensive, and emotional ordeal to adopt children from Russia. One is a single mom who adopted a baby boy. He and my oldest daughter practically grew up together. The other friends are a married couple who adopted an older boy and a younger girl. These children gained parents, siblings, and unparalleled opportunity in the most free nation on Earth. I can’t help but imagine how all of their lives, our lives, would be different if these adoptions had never been able to take place.

For more information, visit the National Council for Adoption’s website.

The Shrinking Adoption Pool

by Krystle Gabele

January 11, 2013

With the recent decision by the Russian government to ban Americans from adopting children from their country, it is becoming more and more difficult for families who wish to provide a child with parents who will love them. While some families are not deterred by this news, they are becoming discouraged, as it is difficult to provide a loving home to children orphaned in America as well.

This morning, USA Today had an article about prospective parents having difficulties adopting children in the United States. The author of the article commented on the difficulties that many families have in even becoming foster parents.

As a result, the number of U.S. infant adoptions (about 90,000 in 1971) has fallen from 22,291 in 2002 to 18,078 in 2007, according to the most recent five-year tally from the private National Council for Adoption. Though the numbers are only current through 2007, the group’s president, Chuck Johnson, expects the number has remained fairly stable since 2007, citing efforts to promote adoption.

There are fewer foster-care children available, because more are reunited with birth parents or adopted by relatives and foster parents. The overall number of kids in the system, 401,000 in 2011, has hit a 20-year low. The number waiting to be adopted fell from 130,637 in 2003 to 104,236 in 2011, according to the U.S. Children’s Bureau. Their median age is 7 and they’re a mix of races (28% black, 22% Hispanic and 40% white.)

However, it’s likely that contributing to the lack of children available for adoption is the prevalence of abortion in America. For example, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the nation’s largest abortion provider, has released its annual report from 2011-2012 and it shows an alarming statistic: PPFA performed 333,964 abortions in 2011 alone. There is no doubt that this number has increased during the 2012 time frame.

FRC even released a brochure highlighting how Planned Parenthood is one of the greatest advocates and promoters of abortion services. Yet PPFA accounts for only about one-quarter of all abortions nationwide.

While the abortion rates are alarming, there is no doubt that this could be tied to the number of children available for adoption in the United States. Our roughly 1.2 million annual victims of abortion could have been placed with families who wished to love and provide a future for them. Who knows? They could have grown up to find cures for fatal diseases or become future leaders in government, etc. Or they simply could have enjoyed their God-given right to life as the adopted children of loving families. We will never know.

Welcome the Little Children

by Anna Higgins

December 21, 2012

Recently, Dr. Russell Moore visited FRCto present a lecture on adoption. He reminded us of a very important adoption story we often fail to consider – the adoption of Jesus by his earthly father, Joseph. He recounted the verse in James that tells us that true religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress (James 1:27). Joseph made a choice to put that true religion into practice when he decided to care for and protect Mary and her son, Jesus.

The Bible records two lineages of Jesus, one from Mary and one from Joseph. Thus, Jesus became Joseph’s actual son, just like every child who is adopted today becomes the true child of the parents who adopt him. As Dr. Moore stated, adoption creates a real relationship. As Christians we should fully understand the vital role of adoption, as we were adopted into God’s family through Christ, so that we who were orphans in need of rescue now call God, “Father” (Romans 8:15).

The kingdom of God is made up of childlike faith (Luke18:16). It is of vital importance to the furtherance of the kingdom of God that we welcome children, as Dr. Moore reminded us, as blessings, not burdens.

Today, I came across a post on Life News from Ryan Bomberger, founder of The Radiance Foundation, which illustrated the beauty of welcoming children in the name of Jesus.

I Like Giving, a new website dedicated to the idea of recognizing need and responding by acting generously (“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7), recently posted a video about a family, the Dennehy’s, with 9 adopted children from all over the world. The video, called “I Like Adoption,” features all 9 children, some of whom have special needs, and the parents discussing the concepts of family, love, and treating children as blessings. As Bomberger attests in his article, “I can’t imagine someone not being moved to introspection and action after watching this short film about the gift of family. It speaks to the heart without offense.” This video has the unique capacity to convey in just a few minutes the truth and worthiness of the Gospel. As one son sings a moving rendition of “How He Loves Us” (David Crowder Band), the love of Jesus for all people, no matter their age or circumstance, is conveyed more eloquently than can be described.

As we approach the day we have set aside to celebrate the greatest Gift ever given, we remember that this Gift was given in the form of a child. May we have renewed joy and hope in the remembrance that while we were orphans, Christ came to save us. We have been adopted and are now sons and daughters of the Most High God!

With this good news in your heart, prayerfully consider how you can welcome children with the love of Jesus this year. Begin by purposefully treating all individuals, as imperfect as they may be, as blessings – uniquely created to be loved and treasured. Spread the word about the blessing of adoption and support families who adopt. Throughout the New Year and beyond, I pray that we daily grasp the importance of welcoming, loving, and protecting these little ones that God has entrusted to us.

Adoption’s Answered Prayers

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 27, 2012

Next week, Dr. Russell Moore of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will be speaking about adoption here at FRC. An adoptive father himself, Russell brings both great understanding and deep commitment to the need for bringing orphaned children into loving, stable homes. You can find out more about the event, and register for it here.

For a good look at what it’s like to adopt internationally, read Jennie Allen’s moving article, “Answer to Prayers: An Adoption Story.” And unlike many good stories, this one is true.

To Protect AND Serve: Why the Pro-Life Movement Needs Both

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 13, 2012

In a compelling op-ed in Her.meneutics, Thea Ramirez writes of the need for Christians not only to be against abortion but for adoption. “Are we really for life if unwilling to help bring unwanted pregnancies to term for women who do not want to parent?,” she asks. “Could we make Roe v. Wade obsolete by raising adoption awareness? I think so.”

Thea is living-out her convictions. Last year, she founded Adoption-Share, “an independent and highly complex website meant to connect and link together all qualified parties involved in the process: birth parents, adoptive parents, and licensed private adoption entities, such as agencies and attorneys. The site functions much the same as Facebook, but is restricted to those interested in adopting.”

As an adoptive father, there is much Thea says with which I, and most adoptive parents, resonate. The world is full of orphans, and in the United States the need remains great, especially for non-infant children who deserve a loving home. There is also no question about her loyalty to the sanctity of life movement. I find myself a bit troubled, though, by this line she writes of pro-lifers: “we are not much better (than “pro-choice” advocates) when we are only focused on being against abortion.”

The issue for me is that after 25 years in the pro-life movement, I don’t know anyone who is “only focused on being against abortion.” The fact that there are 2,300 pregnancy care centers now operating in our country, and that Evangelical Protestant and Catholic adoption services now exist within reach of the vast majority of American women, shows that professing Christians are working to put their faith into active practice.

Can believers do more for children needing homes, here in the U.S.and abroad? Yes, resoundingly. Some friends of my wifes and mine have a bumper sticker on their car: Empty nester? Adopt a child! They did this in adopting their sweet little girl from Russia when their sons were in their late teens. Now, with both of their boys out of the house and on their own, their little one one of my own daughters best friends is bringing new life and joy into their home.

With that said, it is an overstatement to suggest that Roe would become obsolete if only women were more aware of adoption as a realistic option. Human nature being what it is, abortion will never be safe, legal and rare. We are fallen creatures, and when an avenue for ready escape from difficulty is provided to us, often we will take it, refusing to think about the consequences of our decision as long as the immediate stress is removed.

This tendency is not a gender phenomenon; rather, it is inherent in every member of Adams race. And it is why, without the constraints of law, abortion will remain a common option even if adoptions accelerate dramatically.

We need a both/and approach to advancing the sanctity of life: Working to protect the unborn through legislative and judicial action, and also enabling women in crisis situations to pursue adoption as the means by which to give themselves, and their unborn children, hope and a future.

Adoption: Welcome to the Family

by Sharon Barrett

October 24, 2012

What if all children could have the chance to grow up in a loving, intact home? What if those who are bereft of father and mother through disease, poverty, famine, or war could be assured of a bed at night, a place at the table, and warm arms to hold them? What if even a small number of the worlds 153 million orphans could be welcomed into someones family?

These are questions posed by MARRI intern Lindsay Smith as she explores Adoption: What If. For many orphans (children who have lost their father, their mother, or both parents) around the world, the loss of their family signals an end to any kind of stable existence. In Russia, for instance, orphans living in state-run institutions are booted out once they reach age sixteen. These teenagers estimated to number around 10,000 must fend for themselves on the streets, often turning to crime or prostitution, and sometimes to suicide.

Closer to home, the picture is shockingly similar. According to an article from Relevant Magazine,

As of late 2010, more than 408,000 children were in the U.S. foster care system. Of those children, 107,011 were considered adoptablemeaning, their parents rights have been terminated or relinquished.

Every year, 20,000 to 30,000 kids age out of the foster care system. Of those, 50 percent will have dropped out of high school (compared with 8 to 9 percent of the general population). Sixty-two percent will be unemployed within 12 to 18 months. Half will be unemployed at 21 years of age. A quarter of them will be homeless within two years. Nearly 50 percent of females will have a child within 12 to 18 months. And 30 percent will be arrested between the ages of 18 and 21.

When compared to these tragic statistics, the evidence that Adoption Works Well should sound a clarion call to every family that is in a position to consider adoption. Adopted children experience positive outcomes in academics, health, relationships, and parent-child communication in some cases even better than children raised by their biological parents.

When we consider the nature of adoption, this should come as little surprise. Adoption is, in the purest sense, a divine act. Lindsay Smith explains,

Adoption in its truest form is a response to the love and gospel of Jesus Christ. We were adopted into His kingdom, so we in turn adopt children into our homes. Not just so they will have an earthly room, bed or siblings, but so they may have a chance to know about a Heavenly Father who is recklessly and passionately pursuing their adoption to Himself.

On Sunday, November 4th, churches all over the United States and the world will be celebrating Orphan Sunday. Started by the Christian Alliance for Orphans, this Sunday raises awareness for the plight of the orphan through local church services.

Whether or not you and your family are able to adopt a child (either domestically or internationally), consider other ways to support families who adopt and the agencies that walk them through the process. The Christian Alliance for Orphans offers numerous links for this purpose. Remember: what if even one more orphan could be welcomed into someones family?

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