Faith based adoption is a common practice and has been for a long time now. Lately faith based adoption agencies have been coming under political fire because of their stances, specifically about the LGBTQ community, and people of other faiths. Timothy J. O’Neil of the Faith-based Organizations and Government said, ” Government and faith-based organizations have been partners since Colonial America. …Local and state governments supported hospitals, medical clinics, orphanages, and homes for the aged operated by religious groups. Both state and federal governments have long granted tax breaks to religious institutions.” Many agencies were founded by specific denominations and types of faith. There are Muslim adoption agencies, Catholic, Jewish, LDS, and Brethren to name a few. Here are some things you should know about faith based adoption while choosing an agency to work with on your adoption plan.
- There are more than 8000 independent faith based adoption agencies in the US according to an article in USA Today (Bills Supporting Religious Rights Turning Parents Away From Adoption Agencies July 10, 2019” Hernandez, Rebala, Carey, Reicher). They have recently come under fire as court cases have been waged claiming discrimination against individuals not of a particular faith. Your choices are pretty broad should you choose a faith based agency. Even if an agency in your area does not cater to your particular faith an internet search will likely turn one up that can serve you from a different area. A quick internet search showed over 100 results in my religious preference alone. Should you choose faith based adoption your selection will be plentiful. Do you need some “inside information” about an agency you’re thinking about? Check out forums and communities to see what others are talking about.
- There can be benefits to working with a faith based agency. Oftentimes these agencies have what they consider to be a mandate from God to defend orphans or children needing a home. They will typically employ people of the same faith to work as caseworkers and office staff. This is not universally the case but is often a scenario you will encounter. This can bring a feeling of camaraderie where there wouldn’t typically be one. The agency caseworker is the one who will be “in your court” during the adoption process and knowing that the caseworker is of your faith and praying for you and your child can be of great comfort in what can otherwise be a stressful time. Some of these agencies offer post-adoption benefits that are intangible but valuable. Emotional support in the coming months and years in the way of caseworker follow-ups, family support groups, group counseling, summer camps, parties, and the like. You may want to find out what type of adoption aftercare your faith based adoption agency might provide before entering into a relationship with them.
- Some “faith based” adoption agencies will use their faith as a way to manipulate instead of facilitating. Investigate what a particular agency believes regarding issues that are important to you. Even if you are of the same faith that they claim, remember it is an organization usually run by a board of directors. Their motivations may be different than yours. For example, if an agency is Baptist in name the board of directors may hold a hard line on issues that many people don’t see as issues. That doesn’t make them bad, but you need to remember that they are representing the people who donate to the organization. There is a chance that they could lose funding if a donation is a dependant on a hardline fundamentalist who is monitoring the board meetings. You will have to make the decision for yourself whether or not that bothers you. I suggest that you select another agency if that is possible.
- Faith based does not mean your faith. I realize this is common knowledge to some but there are people astounded to realize faith based doesn’t mean “Christian”. It could mean Muslim, LDS, Hindu, or Buddhist. Investigate the organization’s website to determine if the faith of the organization aligns with your own. Sometimes this has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not you would like to pursue adoption with the agency. However, there is a chance that if your faith does not align with theirs you could be disqualified from adoption there. In USA today in the article “Bills supporting religion-based rejection turning parents away from adoption agencies” by Kristian Hernandez and Pratheek Rebala, Center for Public Integrity; Nathaniel Carey, Greenville News, and Mike Reicher, The Tennessean on July 10, 2019, A story of a mother who was hoping to adopt from a protestant Christian adoption agency was turned away because she was Catholic. “Aimee Maddonna, 34, a South Carolina mother of three, was turned away by a state-funded foster care agency because she is Catholic. “Maddonna went to Miracle Hill Ministries in Greenville, the state’s largest foster care outlet, asking to volunteer in hopes of one day becoming a foster parent. But the initial screening was cut short after she was asked the name of her church. “I said, ‘Our Lady of the Rosary,’ and her exact words were, ‘You sound like you’d be the perfect mentor, but we only accept Protestant Christians.” “Saying that the majority of the population is not suitable only because of their religion … that’s archaic,” Maddonna said. ” I cannot imagine the frustration this woman felt. Descrimination should not be allowed. One would wonder however about the choice to pursue litigation as opposed to simply selecting another agency that aligns more truly with her religion. Regardless discrimination of that magnitude seems wrong simply because Catholocism is a branch (and one could argue the founding father of) Christianity.
- There is power in numbers. When you choose a faith based adoption you may want to consider choosing an agency that is large and has been around for a long time. If an agency is successful they generally know how to conduct their business with integrity and in a way that can benefit the community. (Clearly this is not always the case, unfortunately. However, there are several shining examples of how this is true.) While it may seem unfair, in a foster care scenario often CPS will call a larger faith based organization before a smaller one or a secular one. This is based on the representation of the agency. Has CPS had bad run-ins with other agencies? A large agency will often have stricter rules than the bare minimum CPS standard of care. Them keeping to a higher standard assures they are meeting CPS standards and keeping families accountable. The networking abilities of larger organizations is beneficial. If there is a child who becomes available for adoption there is a higher likelihood of the larger agency to be able to find a family that meets the criteria. It works better for everyone for there to be more choices for the child. Generally speaking, larger agencies are able to hold monthly training to make it easier to receive training hours. There is more availability overall making it easier for families to attend. For ideas of what that might look like visit adoption.org and search training.
- Faith based adoption can benefit the community. If an agency steps in to help address the foster care situation in the area the whole area can benefit from the improvements. Often due to faith based adoption agencies entering the area schools begin training for teachers that can and do benefit the student population as a whole.
- Faith based adoption does not mean that the children in any way shape or form involved have accepted your religious beliefs. If an older child is being adopted the agency may hope to place the child with a family that shares their belief system. That does not guarantee that a child has any idea about what it means to be baptist if they are adopted from a baptist adoption agency.
- Just because an agency says they are faith based does not mean they hold to your own core value or belief system. Investigate what they believe and what you yourself believe before you enter into a relationship with them. It is that, a relationship, and you will want to have as many details about the other party in question before you become too deeply involved.
- According to an article on Heritage.org, (LGBT Left’s Shameful Intolerance of Faith-Based Adoption Agencies Hurts KidsMar 18th, 2020 Andrea Jones, Alex Richey) ”Public-private partnerships with faith-based adoption agencies provide numerous benefits to states’ foster care and adoption programs. Those agencies are uniquely able to recruit prospective parents from faith communities, who are twice as likely to adopt as the general population.
Those organizations also “excel at placing children who may have a more difficult time finding adoptive homes, including older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs,” I have, anecdotally, found this to be true. It is not that non-faith based organizations are not compassionate to these needs. It is often because people of faith have strong convictions towards children who need families. Some would counter this is not a benefit as the children are being seen as projects. I will not deny that can be the mentality of some well-meaning but otherwise misguided individuals. Ultimately though a child finding a family that loves them is the most beneficial overall. I recently saw a video on the internet of a devout Muslim man who adopts and cares for children who are going to die of medical complications. He cares for them with such tenderness and love. Is his motivation less pure if he feels he is doing his duty to God than true altruism? I don’t believe so. (If you’d like to know more about this remarkable man, read about his incredible heartbreaking story). Another similar example is a couple in Denver Colorado featured in the NY Times.
- Ultimately choosing a faith based adoption agency can be a huge benefit if you choose to do so. The amount of support offered is generally more than you would receive with a non faith based or CPS foster/adoption scenario. Each time we adopted we were wrapped around by our caseworker and agency team. If you are of a faith that prays, having a caseworker who can and will pray with you is an emotional and amazing experience. The entire process was wrought with emotion as we were a foster to adopt a family and there were several times we thought our now adopted children were going to be returned to a less than ideal situation. When those moments caught me out of breath and tearful behind closed closet doors I could call up my caseworker. I didn’t ever receive scorn, or get told that “This is what you signed up for.” I was met with compassion and understanding. I was also met with biblical truth that God was fighting the battle for my children and it wasn’t my job to worry over their future. I did not always love the reminder but I am thankful now that I had it. I am so thankful for my always on call caseworker who would take time out of her time with family to answer my questions or come to my aid if a child’s behavior was too difficult for me to handle at that moment. (Children adopted from foster care can sometimes have troubling behaviors from maladaptive backgrounds. The scenario I’m thinking of in particular involves a child experiencing hallucinations)She sat with me in the hospital as one of my sons was dealing with suicidal thoughts. She saw her job as a mission from God, and whether or not you believe that to be true, she took her mission very seriously. I’m happy to say that once our professional relationship was over she became one of my best friends. I don’t know how many people can claim that but I am thankful I can. Ultimately the agency you choose should be a matter which is given considerable thought. I hope you will consider using a faith based adoption agency for your family.