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Adoptive Parenting Columnist Heidi Hess Saxton
“How Pro-Life Are We?” Part II
Next week we celebrate our second “official” anniversary as a family, the day Christopher and Sarah were baptized and officially became part of two new families – God’s, and ours. And so, there may have been a few scheming angels at work when today in Catholic Exchange I came across a news item that caught my eye: “Evangelicals Start Adoption Push.” Here’s the link.
It turns out that Focus on the Family and other evangelical groups have been encouraging Christian families to add to their families through adoption or foster care “not just out of kindness or biblical calling but also to answer criticism that their movement, while condemning abortion and same-sex adoption, does not do enough for children without parents.”
I had to smile, recalling the November 2005 article I wrote for CE on this very subject, entitled “How Pro-Life Are We?". When the original article was posted, some were quick to point out the problems with adopting a child for such idealistic reasons. And yet, one need only do the math (500,000 children in the U.S. without a permanent, loving home; 115,000 of these currently available for adoption) to see that an idealistic parent is far better than no parent at all. And since it is impossible to love a child in the abstract – such love comes through intimate knowledge – high ideals are not a bad place to start, so long as the family is willing to do the work necessary to welcome the new member as an integral part of the family unit.
Notice that I did not say, “So long as the family understands how hard the transition will be.” In point of fact, there is really no way to know ahead of time … frankly, I’m not sure I would have had the guts to fill out that ream of paperwork, in triplicate, had I known what was in store. For us at least, that first period of adjustment involved periods of great anxiety, insomnia, and pain – not unlike the labor pains most mothers endure. (Some pangs also came a good deal later, after the “honeymoon” was over.) And, just as with biological children, it isn’t possible to predict the “fit” of a particular child’s temperament or quirks beforehand. There will be surprises, and not always pleasant ones – just as biological parents are sometimes presented with unanticipated challenges as their child develops. There are also moments of deep contentedness, of unexpected belonging, and of unabashed … joy.
Do You Realize What You’re Asking?
Truthfully, I chuckled when one reader sent me a flaming e-mail, lambasting me for being so “naïve” and “unrealistic” about my assertion that more Catholic families should open their hearts and homes to children already “in the system.” Didn’t I realize these families might be subjecting their own children to all kinds of unsavory influences?
Well, I don’t know … is three years with three siblings enough “hands on” experience to fully appreciate just how bad the antics of traumatized children can be? All the ways he or she can act out? (If not through direct experience, through the horror stories of other foster parents around the water cooler at our training sessions.)
Is a year of weekly drives into downtown Detroit – taking “our” children to visit (unaccompanied by us) the same people who had abused and neglected them for years – enough time to appreciate what I was asking other prospective foster parents to do for “the least of these”? Was a year of these visits ending sufficiently draining to appreciate the potential heartache I was asking other parents to open themselves to?
Was getting kicked out of our local Catholic Montessori program humiliating enough to assure other parents that they, too, can survive the multitude of embarrassments that come with the task of raising someone else’s child?
Was the frustration of having to wait three years to find out whether we’d be able to keep them, after all, difficult enough to assure prospective foster-adoptive parents that they, too, can survive the wait?
I think so.
And so, I was pleased as punch to sit in the “Amen” corner when I read that Pastor Rick Warren paraphrased my original challenge (though he is very likely blissfully unaware of the duplication, as CE is unlikely to be anywhere near the top of his blogroll). For those of you who can’t remember my original challenge, I’ll repeat it:
It’s important to note, of course, that ideals are not enough to sustain this kind of commitment. It requires determination. It demands sacrifice. It involves daily irritations (from invasive home studies, to regular appointments with alternately burned out and inexperienced social workers, to upsetting visits with birth family, to recurring temper tantrums and beyond). Foster parenting and foster-adoption is not for the overly idealistic or the faint of heart. Like anything else, it is a calling.
Could God be calling you?
Imagine the joy and rapture of the angels if Catholics joined forces with other Christians across the nation to find permanent families for each of those 115,000 children (before they “age out” of the system), and loving homes for the remaining 385,000 children for as long as they need one?
Of course, it would be a mistake to foster or adopt a child simply to build bridges of love and understanding between Catholic and Evangelical communities.
Then again, I can’t imagine a better “perk.” Can you?
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