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    Beyond ProLife: Operation Unwanted Child

    February 15, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Samaritan’s Purse has an annual service opportunity called Operation Christmas Child. My church does this every year. Participants pick a category {girl or boy} and then an age range {if I remember correctly} and fill up a shoebox with appropriate gifts. These shoeboxes are then collected and delivered somewhere around the world to children we will never meet or touch. It is an amazing ministry.

    I’ve seen an Operation Christmas Child video a time or two, and for some reason, I was reminded of it when I saw this website {hence the title of this post}, where you can browse photos of kids here in California who need a home. I wanted to include a photo of one of the children, but there are security measures that prevent me from doing so. Suffice it to say that there are children in such desperate need of a home that you can shop for them online.

    About six months ago, I learned that a relative of a relative of mine {complicated, I know} had adopted three or four little ones over the course of the last five years, and each of the children’s paperwork cost less than $500 apiece to complete. I had never heard of such a thing! An old boss of mine had adopted his children for about thirty times that amount, which told me that no matter how heart-wrenching the idea of a needy child was, helping them was something out of our price range.

    Apparently, there is a major difference between a public and private adoption. Private adoption agencies tend to work with the more “wanted” babies. What I mean by this is that there are long lines of people waiting for a beautiful {usually caucasion, statistically speaking}, college-bound unwed mother with few vices and a clean genetic background to choose them as the adoptive parents. There is a huge demand for perfect babies.

    During the Birth Control as an Idea discussions, my genius father made the observation that those “unwanted” babies Margaret Sanger would have liked to see eliminated are generally born. Some of them are taken home and reared by their own parents. But some are abandoned in hospitals when the parents discover a heart problem or other defect. And some are taken away because they are born with drugs in their system. And some are taken away later when parents prove neglectful or dangerous. And some children become orphans and simply have nowhere to go.

    We have a fully functioning foster care system, I know. But have you ever met a full-grown foster child before? Someone who has known nothing but the system? I remember a girl I met once. She went to college when she turned 18 because she had no where else to go. Her foster parents were the type that were in it for the stipend {kind of like the perpetually pregnant welfare moms}, and at 18 they cut her loose. She was alone for every holiday, and had no real family in the world. Frankly, this made her a very difficult person because she was so damaged by it, and, sadly, it was hard for me to imagine her ever marrying and being able to create a family.

    The foster care system is a great short-term solution, but it really shouldn’t be considered acceptable for children to never have a permanent family.

    There was a point in time where Si and I felt called to open our home in just this way, but it didn’t work out. But I remember what drove us to it. We thought of our own precious children, and how our hearts break at the thought of them being alone and raised by strangers who have no regard for our Lord. And then we thought of the child who might need us, and there was a great burden of conviction and an overwhelming willingness to love him like our own.

    In my Save a Snowflake posting, I brought up James 1:27, which says that pure religion is expressed through caring for widows and orphans. If adopting a snowflake is a life-giving act, then one may rightly call adopting an unwanted child a life-affirming act.

    I do not believe that all are called to the same front in the prolife war. Some will counsel mothers considering abortion and help them choose life, and they may be very different from those who adopt the children. Some will save a snowflake, and they may be very different from those who adopt a gaggle of foster babies into a stable and permanent home. But all of these will be said to have fought the war.

    Think of how powerful it could be if members of the Church rose up and took in these cast-off, downtrodden children. Our Savior was here on earth, and he reached out to such as these:

    1. Lucas is a sweet little baby boy with blond hair and blue eyes. Lucas is a medically fragile child, but is currently recieving very specialized care. He likes being held and cuddled. Lucas responds positively to others and smiles when smiled at and spoken to softly. Lucas enjoys viewing the activity of the room around him and he looks to see his caretaker for reassurance. Lucas needs a family who is able to care for a medically fragile baby.
    2. Christopher is a toddler boy with some special medical needs that will require a strong family. He has had a strong, positive attachment with foster parents, especially adult females. He has an age-appropriate difficulty with separation and may seem “clingy.” After a time, he readily seeks and interacts with familiar adults and peers in the home. Christopher enjoys playing with toys which he often throws and retrieves. He also enjoys participating in this activity with other children. Christopher enjoys watching Nickelodeon and similar children’s television shows. He walks independently and has adequate gross motor skills. Christopher is reported to have developmental delays in the area of language and social development. This wonderful little guy would benefit from the stability and nurturing of a permanent family.
    3. David {age 7} is an intelligent boy who watches Sponge Bob, likes pizza, and has a “can do” attitude. Healthy and developmentally on track, David is doing very well in school. This bright boy is very good with younger children and takes pride in acting like a big brother by explaining things to them. David would do well in a warm and nurturing family capable of meeting his emotional needs, particularly in times of regression. David will need a family who has patience and the capacity to set firm limits. The adoptive family should also be loving and provide him with support so that he can reach his full potential. David is a wonderful kid who would be a beneficial addition to any worthwhile family.

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    12 Comments

  • Reply Rahime February 18, 2006 at 12:47 am

    The issue of our population being a strain on the earth’s enviornment and resources doesn’t just involve having enough land to grow food to feed all the people on the earth. I know you didn’t literally mean we should move everyone to Alaska and farm the rest of the world (what a logistical nightmare), but to think of the earth’s resources simply in terms of space, available land mass and adequate amount of food is an extreme over-simplification of the issue.

    The poplulation of developed nations, the US in particular, impacts ALL of the earth’s natural resources (think about just statistics on how quickly we use fossil fuels…not much use in having enough food if there’s no fuel to get the food to people). The lifestyle of the average American family has a much much worse environmental impact than that of the average family in the developing world (those with the higher birth rates you cited previously). And, when we consider that those countries are Developing (ie standards of living are increasing), and look to where they will be in 20, 50 or 100 years. Also, in the world as a whole there is plenty of food for everyone, but mismanagement of resources still allows people to die of starvation every day (but that’s another topic).

    I’m not saying that people should stop having children. I don’t think that at all, but I do think that we need to take a serious look at how we’re using the resources we have and work to use them more efficiently. We have certain expectations here…like we should have at least one car per family…which might not be realistic in a few generations, if we don’t start doing some things differently very soon. This goes back to something you’ve touched on in your blog a few times before…reducing our consumption and learning to be producers. Our culture (and world as a whole) really need to have a major paradigm shift from the consumer mindset that is so rampant. Maybe that’s a completely different topic, but I don’t think its fair to say that we aren’t overpopulating the earth just because we can technically fit a lot more on the earth and have enough food to feed them. At the current rate of consumption of resources, we are overpopulating the earth…it just looks like the West is the major cause of blame for this even though we have a lower birthrate. It seems like Europe has taken steps to address these issues. As a whole though, our country has not.

    “Take for example the United States. With around 5 percent of the world’s population, the US consumes about 40% of the world’s resources and emits around 21% of the worlds carbon dioxide, a greenhouse-causing gas. The United States, however, is not over-populated, but the consumption-based life style does have its effects.” http://www.globalissues.org/EnvIssues/Population/Stress.asp

    http://dieoff.org/page50.htm

    http://www.popco.org/irc/essays/essay-pimentel.html

    These links sites are just a few I found in a 2 second search, I didn’t read them thouroughly, but they did have some interesting info.

    Kris, I think your question about the relationship between the Great Commission and the Dominion Mandate is interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but I was actually wondering that in regards to the issue about the spread of Islam. It seems to me that goal in the “Battle of Islam” should be to help the lost come to the feet of Jesus rather than to out-populate them. After all, people who convert from one religion to another for the sake of marriage are rarely extremely devoted to either.

    I don’t really have any answers, but like you, I’m enjoying thinking about these issues and seeing all of the different sides of them. Sorry I’m so long-winded lately. 🙂

  • Reply kris February 17, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    I admit I’m a little glad you didn’t have a quick answer for that. I don’t feel quite so ignorant! 😉 No hurry on my end….

  • Reply Brandy February 17, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Oooohh…That’s good question! I think that one might take more time, but I’ll try to discover the answer…

    It really is hard to put it all together…

  • Reply kris February 17, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    Good point, Brandy. I’ll have to keep thinking on this. (This is very hard!!!) Since you’re willing to do the extensive research on this, I’ll give you another question I have. =) Why doesn’t Jesus ever mention the mandate to “be fruitful and multiply?” (Perhaps he assumed people just would.) I was wondering about the Great Commission to “go and make disciples….” Do you think the emphasis in the new covenant shifts more from procreation to evangelism? Maybe He could have said, “Go and make babies, and baptize them….” but he says to go to the ends of the earth and make disciples. I’m not questioning the procreation so much as wondering how it all fits together.

    This is why I don’t blog. I end up rambling and making very little sense. Please forgive me! And take this all with a grain of salt…like you, I’m just trying to make sense of it all. If you’ve found any information that’s helpful here, I’d be interested in hearing it. =)

  • Reply Brandy February 17, 2006 at 4:54 am

    Kristie,

    I agree it is all related. It is very prolife to accept the children God chooses to bless one’s marriage with. And it is very prolife to affirm the value of babies whose parents do not want them by means of adoption.

    I do think, however, that God’s command to be fruitful and multiply does not conflict with His heart for widows and orphans. Procreation and adoption are not mutually exclusive. And though I think that adoption is a revolutionary idea, it is procreation that is commanded by God, while adoption as a specific means of caring for orphans is not.

    I think that viewing the Dominion Mandate as having been fulfilled is a very dangerous idea, for many reasons. Perhaps the most compelling is that it was not until after Margaret Sanger’s influence on society that many people ever had such an idea, and I see the position as a possible result of her indirect influence on a person’s thinking.

    The other reason it makes me uncomfortable is that it is so arbitrary. Other commands are either obeyed or not obeyed. I either murder or I don’t, I either commit idolatry or I don’t. But seeing the Mandate as being fulfilled is based upon a person’s opinion of the data concerning whether the earth is truly subdued or the population actually a strain on resources. For instance, while some would say we are overpopulated and strained for sustenance, I can do some basic math and show you that the earth’s population can fit quite neatly into the state of Alaska, with the rest of the earth to farm for food (though I would hate to all live so close together like that), and statistics that reveal that most so-called “famines” are the result of dictatorships and mismanagement. Also, if we all stopped procreating, then the Mandate would become unfulfilled as the population began to die out. And if you throw a big plague in there, again it would become unfulfilled. If something is truly fulfilled, it would not have to be repeated (like Jesus’ death on the cross). The fact that some must have children is evidence enough that the Dominion Mandate in not completed (until the time when we are no longer given in marriage).

  • Reply kristie February 16, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    I think this is an interesting issue. In a way it’s related to the birth control issue. I’ve heard from respected people that one argument in favor of birth control is that the earth has already been subdued, and in fact the population has become a strain on its resources. (i.e. the command to “be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth” has been fulfilled.) The reason I bring this up here is that either way, adoption is a beautiful option. (“No, I’m rhyming…”) Regardless of what we think about planning or not planning to give birth to more children, we certainly should think about caring for the ones already in existence. Like Brandy said, it’s a way to make “pro-life” mean something.

    Still pondering….

  • Reply Rahime February 16, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    That’s great. I think most of the families I’ve know have had at least one birth-child. Maybe that contributed to the sense of insecurity. I have several friends who were adopted at different times. One was adopted at 4 and now is in her 20s and has 2 kids with 2 different fathers (she’s in the process of divorcing the first and living with the second). She works at a grocery store. Her little sister seems to be doing better now, but ran away several times in her teens.

    Another of my friends was adopted when she was older…they really wanted her little 1 year old brother…but she was 14. She went through pretty rocky teenage years, ran away a number of times, etc. Her sister (the parent’s birth-daughter) was killed in a car accident when she was 17 and my friend was 21. At the time, my friend wasn’t speaking to her family, but I’m not sure where she is now.

    A family friend adopted a boy from Russia when he was 7. Its been about 8 or 9 years now and they took him back to visit. When he was there he told them that he didn’t want to come home. Of course, he did come home. He’s been struggling with a little habit of stealing things. But, their birth-children’s lives aren’t in great shape either.

    Another family friend adopted 2 girls from Russia. One was 7 and on 13 at the time. They ended up not keeping them though and gave them to another family who had adopted some Russian children.

    Sometimes I’d really like to sit down with these people and talk to them about their experiences being adopted. I know the ones who were adopted older has a pretty rough life before. I’ve lost touch with most though.

    I think in some ways I have a lot more compassion for the older ones too after going through so much with Lauren…she had parents and a loving family, but has been on the streets because of drugs…she’s turning 21, but really is just a kid. The streets are no place for any kid, well anyone at all really. I think when we were in Romania and Russia they said they turn the kids out of the orphanages at 16 if they haven’t been adopted (and few of them are by that time). I haven’t worked with any of the older kids here, but in Romania they seemed like really nice, needy kids in general.

  • Reply Brandy February 16, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    Kris–I forgot about your experience with the older foster kids. SO sad. On the website I linked to, I saw one boy in particular who was 17, and I could only think no one’s going to adopt him. I mean, he’s already raised for all practical purposes. And I was sad for him, because I know I still needed a home when I was 20, but I don’t think many people look at it that way.

    Rahime–I could see you being a good adoptive mom. We had some friends that were infertile, and they adopted six children (over time, not all at once). It seemed that because they had all experienced it, it became “normal” to them a bit, and I didn’t sense that insecurity about being abandoned that is sometimes there in smaller families. I don’t know if it was the parents or just having others who knew how it was, but it seemed to work.

  • Reply kristie February 16, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    After working with the students with emotional disabilities for two years, I have a fresh understanding of the whole foster parenting system. What I think is really sad is that there are teenagers who will probably never be adopted, because of their “record.” Very few people are willing to let juvenile delinquents into their homes, especially if there are other kids in the home already (in fact, in some cases this is prohibited by law). It seems especially hopeless for them. What an opportunity to intervene in children’s lives before they get to that point. I do think it is a special calling.

  • Reply Rahime February 16, 2006 at 8:01 am

    If ‘Chung and I ever have a family, I think it would most likely…or at least very likely to…be adopted. I have known several families in the past who have fostered children and later adopted them. For the most part it went well, but several of the older ones did have a pretty difficult time (I think one was 14 when she was adopted). I also know a number of people who have done international adoptions and had great experiences.

    All, even those adopting babies, that I know have had to deal with a certain level of insecurity stemming from the child knowing they were “given up” by someone, but they’re some of the sweetest, most appreciative kids.

  • Reply Brandy February 15, 2006 at 9:48 pm

    Rachel,

    The children that I linked to at the bottom of the post are fairly young. One was seven, which is a bit “old” (from the training perspective) but little Christopher is only 2, and I think Lucas is 1. There are also older children who are young mentally.

    Honestly, one could adopt an entire family if one desired it! I saw some children on the website who had four or five siblings, and the state refuses to allow them to be separated, so if a family falls in love with one of the siblings, they must adopt the whole group. I understand the motivation, but I know this would be an obstacle for most families who feel they have space in their hearts for one child rather than five.

    One thing I didn’t mention in the post, but may also be helpful to know, is that treatment of the accompanying medical conditions can be paid for by the state (in California, at least) even after adoption, and, depending on one’s income level, there is even financial assistance available after adoption. I think the state has come to grips with the monetary barriers and tried to remedy it a bit in hopes of getting these kids into permanent homes.

    Oh! Before I forget, my understanding of the website is that it is only a small group of available children. If a person were to go to their local Child and Family Services office, there would probably be more babies, or one can even request a social worker to watch for a certain type of baby to be born or taken from negligent parents. I think this is the best way to find a child under 2 in a public adoption situation.

  • Reply Rachel Ramey February 15, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    My parents have been foster parents practically my whole life, so I know exactly what you mean about them having been so damaged by the system! I had no idea it was possible to adopt for so little, though. Unfortunately, up-front money is a huge obstacle for most Christians who are otherwise willing to step up to the plate. 🙁 Do you know if any of these are small children? For reasons of experience in child training (and the age of my current daughter), I would not be comfortable adopting an older child (at least not an American one) at this time.

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